1 item from 2002
"July Rhapsody", a languid, delicate story about love and loyalty from veteran director Ann Hui, suffers from an overdose of Chinese poetry. The central character, Lam Yui-kwok, a literature teacher in an elite Hong Kong high school, has a passion for such poetry. The movie begins with a long lecture by Yui-kwok that even he admits is boring and ends with him, his wife and eldest son reciting a poem each has memorized. Even Cantonese poetry lovers may find this a bit much. Consequently, the film has little commercial appeal but could interest adult audiences in Asia and at film festivals.
Jacky Cheung plays Yui-kwok, a reserved, middle-aged teacher whose simple, hardworking lifestyle causes him to wonder at the contrast between his life and those of his old college buddies, now all wealthy businessmen.
Then two jolts send Yui-kwok's life into a spin. First, a very self-confident and pretty female student (Karena Lam) makes it clear that she has a major crush on her teacher. Then his wife (Anita Mui) tells him that their old high school literature teacher, with whom she had an affair before marrying Yui-kwok, has returned from Taiwan, divorced and terminally ill.
His wife wants to nurse The Old Man through his final days. Yui-kwok sees this desire as a betrayal, a confirmation that she has never gotten over her former lover. She insists that this is a means by which she can confront the past and put it behind her. In any event, his young student's seductive advances are growing more tempting for the unhappy husband.
The film unfolds in a fragmented fashion with the father, then the mother, relating the story to their eldest boy. This too gets interrupted with cloudy video footage of the Yangtze River, which figures prominently in one of the teacher's favorite poems, and interludes of everyday life that feel somehow beside the point.
The integrity of all the key performances sustains the movie through these slow sections, of which there are far too many. If you stick it out, "Rhapsody" comes to an emotionally satisfying conclusion. But a slow start and the randomness of some of the footage make the movie feel like a 60-minute drama padded to feature length.
A Filmko Pictures film
presented by Alexander Wong
Producers: Derek Yee, Ann Hui
Director: Ann Hui
Screenwriter: Ivy Ho
Director of photography: Kwan Pun Leung
Production designer: Man Lim Chung
Music: Tommy Wai
Co-producers: Jacob Cheung, Albert Chow
Costume designer: Cheng Man Yee
Editor: Kwong Chi Leung
Lam Yui-kwok: Jacky Cheung
Lee Man-Ching: Anita Mui
Wo Choi-nam: Karena Lam
Sohn: Shaun Tam
Her Seng: Tou Chung Hua
Running time -- 103 minutes
No MPAA rating
1 item from 2002
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