SUN, MOON AND STAR, Pt. 2, continues epic romantic drama set in China
SUN, MOON AND STAR is a two-part film produced in color by Hong Kong's Cathay Studios in 1961. Part 1, reviewed separately, introduced Xu Jianbai (Yang Zhang) and the three women in his life: A-Lan (Lucilla You Min), the country girl and childhood sweetheart; cousin Qiuming (Grace Chang), the cosmopolitan city girl and college student; and Su Yanan (Julie Yeh Feng), the student activist and woman of action, all framed against a backdrop of China in the 1930s and '40s during the period of Japanese invasion, occupation and aftermath.
Part 1 ended with Jianbai and Su Yanan among the students fleeing the invading Japanese. Part 2 follows the efforts of all four characters to participate in the war effort. Su Yanan joins the army and fights. Jianbai enlists to be near her. A-Lan becomes a nurse at a battlefront hospital and Qiuming entertains the troops. (Grace Chang, Cathay's leading musical star at the time, performs some rousing patriotic numbers in these scenes.) Jianbai is reunited with Su in the battlefield, but is wounded and then cared for by A-Lan. He seeks out Qiuming, who is alarmed to learn he loves Su Yanan. Their paths all cross and uncross with separations sometimes lasting years as the war ends and each undergoes a different fate. All three women unite at one point, creating a most poignant scene.
Despite the large-scale war scenes (which are rather awkwardly staged), the story is basically an intimate drama of four people and is best treated as one film with both parts meant to be watched back to back (the total is a little over three-and-a-half hours). It's a bittersweet tale, gentle and moving and simply and elegantly done, for the most part. The three actresses are just incredible, creating strong, living, breathing, compelling women who follow their destinies and manage always to rise above the petty emotions that would create the kinds of melodramatic complications which normally fill this type of movie. All of these women see the larger picture in a way that the indecisive hero never does. They're the real heroes and they accomplish quite a lot, certainly more than Jianbai ever does. They're all wonderful women in a down-to-earth, everyday way, not the larger-than-life, glamorous Shaw Bros. way. You can understand the hero's inability to choose between them.
There are parallels between this two-part wartime romantic drama and a similar Shaw Bros. effort, THE BLUE AND THE BLACK (1966), also in two parts and also reviewed on this site. The Shaw Bros. film, starring Linda Lin Dai, covers virtually the same historical period and time span, but is bigger-budgeted and larger in scope, offering a greater array of characters and more interlocking plots. SUN, MOON AND STAR is simpler and more directly focused on its four main characters, but both films are highly recommended to fans of classic Hong Kong cinema.
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