Hou Yong is a famous cinematographer in China who is best known for his collaborations with Fifth Generation Directors (he himself graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 1982 as a cinematographer) like Tian Zhuangzhuang, Wu Ziniu and most notably, Zhang Yimou, with whom he has collaborated four times. "Jasmine Women" is Hou's second feature as a director. Like so many Chinese cinematographers (Zhang Yimou, Lü Yue, Gu Changwei) he has ventured into directing, and here he adapts a novel by Su Tong ("Raise the Red Lantern").
As the credits rolled out for "Jasmine Women" I found myself looking at the film as a lost chance. Yes, the cinematography of the movie is alluring and the art direction decent, but the movie, story and editing do not strike one as particularly memorable. If you compare this film to that by Gu Changwei done one year later ("Peacock"), "Jasmine Women" would strike you as no more than a passable sophomore effort. The story lacks empathy and development (plot or character-wise) and Hou directs it like a cyclist on a relentless downhill race. The entire movie appears so rushed for time that none of the characters are decently developed, and each scene lasts on the average two minutes. The men are cads or scumbags, and the women are not very sympathetically portrayed either. One can say that Hou's film "lost it" when he casts character actors like Jiang Wen and Lou Ye as heartless, spineless scums. Zhang Ziyi's characters appear unduly spoilt and stubborn, whereas Joan Chen can't do very much with her dual roles as mother/grandmother.
Which brings us to Zhang Ziyi, who can be a very good actress yet seems to be badly directed here. She is asked to carry the whole film on her shoulders in three different roles, yet she fails to do so, unlike Shu Qi in "Three Times" (the Hou Hsiao-Hsien's vehicle which uses the same concept as "Jasmine Women"). There is a rich sense of déjà vu as we see the three characters suffer similar fates, yet at the same time Zhang and Hou don't differentiate the characters enough to make you believe they are three different women. In short, if you think you are getting three Zhang Ziyis for the price of one, you are really getting only one.
So what remains of "Jasmine Women" is a rather unmoving, uninvolving spectacle of three women going through similar fates as jilted women/women who lose their husbands. Is the Su Tong story so grim and relentless? I wouldn't know, as I probably won't read it, the only thing I know is that this "Jasmine Women" is rather joyless and at the same time represents a lost opportunity for Hou Yong, Zhang Ziyi and Joan Chen.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?