The first movie I watched starring enigmatic Chinese actor Jiang Wen was during a business trip to KL, catching a show at KLCC before my late afternoon flight. In Warriors of Heaven and Earth, he donned a moustache and beard as the charismatic leader Lieutenant Li, in a movie which had great premise but a lousy story to tell. As for Zhao Wei, unless your head was buried in sand, you wouldn't have missed the era in the late 90s where she was bombarding television sets everywhere in her role as Little Sparrow in My Fair Princess Huan Zhu Ge Ge.
So I guess putting them together in a movie made it almost irresistible to not want to pick up this DVD. This was actually a precursor to their Warriors movie where they collaborated again, but in this modern setting, based upon a short story "Adiliya by the River" (what the heck is Adiliya?) by Jin Renshun, they star as a pair of wannabe lovers looking into exploring if they could be together.
Sweeping aside the age gap, this movie is one heck of a mindgame. It's frustrating at times as nothing actually happens, and the lead characters just sit around and talk about stuff absolutely not related to anything at all. Well, at least not directly related to what's happening on hand, but telling stories - we're sitting through a story with characters telling stories, fictional ones which doesn't really add depth to plot, or characterization. It's pretty strange stuff.
And strange are their characters too, with the only realistic moment is the beginning - if you're looking for a stranger in a cafe, and there are two ladies, who would you approach first, the hot one, or the plain looking one? Chen Mingliang (Jiang Wen) went for the jugular, but it was actually Wu Fang (Zhao Wei) who was his blind date. They don't start off well, and continued to bicker. One's become obsessive with her conservatism, while the latter is a serial blind-dater.
But there is more than meets the eye to Wu Fang, and herein lies the guesswork to decipher who she actually was, and the motivations behind what she is doing. You can boil it down to PMS, or to the wall being built around her heart, or to just plain old psychosis. Whatever the case is, it's about persistence and the relentless pursuit of who you like, and on the other side, to spice things up with playing coy, hard to get, and being more of a mysterious enigma.
Nothing much to take away in less than 90 minutes, except to admire the two lead's ability to act and play off each other, and Christopher Doyle's cinematography (he makes tea leaves in hot water so sexy), which is a bit of a waste in a movie lacking in strength of story. I hate to say this, but the repetitive score is a bit irritating.
Code 9 DVD contains zero extras. The sound was quite bad, with plenty of echo, like speaking in a vast enclosed space. The transfer was bearably decent, but the subtitles seemed to look as if it has its bottom thinly shaved off.
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