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|Index||41 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A imperfect film to my tastes, but definitely worth watching for two
elements, the French connection and the enfolding of stories.
In the sixties, we were blessed with a flood of highly person films, some of which embodied a sense of meaningless angst, conveyed in a rough, expressionistic style. French cinema is moribund now, but the tradition has been revived by Hong Kong art films. This film stays still by moving, focuses on characters by highlighting the city.
Here, the effort is focused on a modern obsession, the trustworthiness of the narrative. So we have a film about stories and storytelling. Vivian's story haunts her; she has helped build a story for Chang which brings him success but her ruin (because of her old story).
Irons plays a man paid to tell "the story" on Hong Kong, who realizes the current story is empty and the "new" story (by the great inventors of history, the communists) will differ only superficially.
OOPS! Spoiler warning. Stop now if concerned.
He is given a story about his death (is it true?). He tracks down Jean who tells two stories. Is the first true? Then we get the story about her jilting and attempted suicide. This is brought into question as well. And we never get the story we wonder about, how her scar came to be.
Vivian spins an alternate identity as a whore, in order to pierce the many-yeared barrier between her and Irons. You really should see this film together with "French Lieutenant's Woman." In both cases, a fiction reveals truth, in both, Irons is the hapless victim. That is lush, this is bare. That references French Impressionism, this English Colonialism (think about the confluence) but the dynamic is the same, as is the notion of enfolded time and relative truth.
I understand what they were going for with this, but somehow it failed to
move me very much. The artfulness is enjoyable, but for some reason,
perhaps the acting or the perennially bouncing camera, I never was
into flowing with the movie. Instead, it felt like acting, and thus I
couldn't help but feel a manipulated instead of moved.
It's a nice try, however. Irons is fun to watch, if not as well done as in others. Gong Li is more enjoyable on her deeper roles (such as Temptress Moon and Raise the Red Lantern), as opposed to the shallow one turned in here, due to playing a shallow character (as with Shanghai Triad), or one which does not seem to break out into the foreground, perhaps compounded by being clumsily mashed into an English-speaking role. She didn't look comfortable the entire film. No one did, ever. Perhaps that itself is a facet of Hong Kong, and an effect that I failed to catch.
Then again, truly moving art films are hard to make. While it didn't score anywhere near off the charts with me, like the far more graceful Temptress Moon, it was still much enjoyed over the usual local (Hollywood) fare.
Set in Hong Kong at the eve of the handover, Jeremy Irons stars as an
expat freelance journalist in love with an unattainable local woman. A
piece of unsettling news prompts him to distance himself from her,
making the most of his last days in the territory.
The acting by both leads was superb. As another review has noted the way it was shot made it feel like a documentary, with Jeremy Irons narrating over several scene transitions and pouring out his confessions and regrets.
The whole experience feels honest and captures the mood of Hong Kong in the 90s perfectly. Chinese Box is a fitting a tribute to the city itself, the ever bustling backdrop to a genuine love story.
The players in this film, Ironsd, Li and Cheung, all have symbolic
Gong Li represents Hong Kong. She is a whore that every man wants.
As someone even says in the film; "Hong Kong is a whore and now it has a new pimp".
Irons represents, of course, Britain, and doesn't have long left, symbolized by his having cancer. Irons tries to win over Li, but to no avail. The handover is happening and nothing can stop it.
Maggie Cheung (in a great and convincing performance) is the jilted lover, the part of Hong Kong that has been tricked by Britain's promises of democracy and a western way of life.
When Maggie meets her former lover, the Brit doesn't even remember her... it is a poignant and believable moment.
Irons is a bit flat but Gong Li is a simmering sex goddess. Perfect for her allegorical role.
I've been to Hong Kong twice and the way it is portrayed in this film
is dead on. the hustle and bustle, street hawkers, apartment interiors,
the faces, traffic volume are all there.
this is definitely a love story with a twist. Jeremy Irons is a British actor so he lacks the pretentiousness of Americans and so can correctly portray the pathos needed for that of a man deeply in love with a woman who is holding out for something better; until it is too late.
Gong Li is the quintessential barfly/escort trying to marry into a better social position, but who *finally* realizes it is not to be and then turns to the man who does want to marry her only to discover he is so jaded (no pun intended) that he at first harshly spurns her. she even resorts to attempting to seduce him in her barmaid persona but of course that doesn't work either.
Maggie Cheung was fantastic as the other woman in his life, a street person who likewise has a troubled past.
this film has an exceptionally strong message about the trials of life and how we have to make the most of the successes and victories that do come our way. a must see for anyone intrigued by life in modern China. and anywhere in the world for that matter.
the movie was neither boring or disgusting. it is a lesser-known gem. people who are motivated in their movie purchases by the attractiveness of the actress or how she looked in what pair of jeans aside. the drama was realistic, the characters were believable, honorable and complex. the soundtrack and sets were splendid too. nobody is claiming it is the best thing ever done, but it is worth two hours. it is thought-provoking if a bit inconclusive (as life is) and should not be written off as trash.
I liked the "Chinese Box" and found this movie rather interesting and enjoyable, but what I really think is worth mentioning is Vivan's (Gong Li) attitude, so typical of an eastern woman. Splendid performance! This "insight" of the eastern woman is rare in a western movie and deserves due note.
Jeremy Irons is the main reason for seeing this movie, the title "Chinese
Box" implying that this story has many layers and hidden meanings, as does a
Chinese Box. Irons is a journalist in Hong Kong, New years' eve of 1997,
when the British rule and occupation are to begin it phase out. He loves a
Chinese woman who, because of her trade cannot marry him, nor the Chinese
man who loves her.
I was immediately put off by the background music, although it may have been faithful to Hong Kong. Still, I thought it was irritating mostly. I was also put off by the preponderance of hand-held camera shots, and not even steadycam! Plus, the many scenes shot on a small digital camera. True, all that contributed to the 'mood', but I guess I was just not 'in the mood'!! As I told my wife, "This is probably a better movie than I was able to enjoy.
The best part of the film, to me, was the actual singing of Reubin Blades, along with his guitar self-accompaniment. I rate it "6" of 10 and worth a view for anyone who likes slow-moving, complexly developed relationships.
Very short, very sweet: I was disappointed.
If you have read my reviews about Mr. Irons, you can understand why I felt that his character was a bit weak. For a person who watches a film at least 3 times in one sitting (for technical, dialogue and story evaluation), I felt that I was not fulfilled with the message of this film. I saw Li Gong in "Raise the Red Lantern" and she was wonderful. In this film, she had very little dialogue, probably because her English is limited. I believe she should get more American roles in order to develop her second language. I felt that her character was weak also. The only person that had any "flavor" or depth, was the woman who portrayed "Jean", the woman with the scar. I felt that her character was the best and was very colorful. I am sorry that the main characters had very little to offer. I also like Ruben Blades, but I felt he was in the wrong movie. You know, displaced.
I consider myself a fan of Wayne Wang's spontaneous-style work. With that said, I was really looking forward to his latest with Jeremy Irons & Maggie Cheung. What a disappointment. This was a typical "star-crossed lovers set during an important historical event" that has been done before and has been done better. None of the characters are alluring except Maggie and she totally disappears by the movie's end. Wang is known for character-rich stories. What happened here? Chinese Box, like Chinese food, hardly satisfied me making search elsewhere for something with content.
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