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John is an English photojournalist who has spent over a decade in Hong Kong; his friend Jim often crashes in his cramped apartment. John's unrequited love is Vivian whom he aches for but has not the nerve to possess. Concurrent with England's transfer of Hong Kong back to the Chinese, John discovers that he has a rare form of leukemia and has only months to live. So John, Jim, and the disfigured proto-hippy Jean grab a digital video camera and prowl the streets, seeking to document the "real" Hong Kong one last time. Written by
When John and Jim stop during the motorcycle ride up the hill, the shadow of a cameraman is visible. See more »
You must get a piece of jade, and keep it close. Then your blood will go into the stone, and the stone will get into your blood. The blood will then become stone, and you will stop bleeding.
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The world is changing around the characters in 'Chinese Box'. The screen time focuses on the six months between the New Year 1997 and the end of the British rule in Hong Kong. It's also the time that is left for John, the principal character of the film, a freelance journalist trying to store on film and in words the transition and dying of leukemia. It is the time when not only the world is changing in an unknown direction, but also when John may or may not find the fulfilling of his great love to Vivian, a beautiful Chinese bartender with a dubious past, herself in love with a third, Chinese man.
The story is a combination between culture clash movies intertwined with love stories a la 'Shogun' with love stories in the shade of a crumbling world as in 'Casablanca'. It is to the credit of the director that despite a little too simplistic and explicit romantic intrigue he succeeds to bring to screen and combine a little of the charm of both genres in the right dosage. One may wonder where did Wayne Wang's career go lately and why he rather picked to do trashy films as 'Maid in Manhattan'.
The strength of the film and what makes it survive well the decade since its realization resides however in the rendition of the city, of its infinite colors and smells, of the crowd and the noise, of its hopes, fears and dreams in the wake of the falling under Communist rule. Jeremy Irons is perfect as he will ever be, Li Gong is an enigmatic Chinese Hepburn, and Ruben Blades and Maggie Chang fill in two memorable supporting roles and another lateral story that fits well in the mosaic. 'Chinese Box' catches both a moment to remember in history and a beautiful love story to remember as well, on the background of a world in transition to an unknown destination.
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