A person's life is destined to be shorter than that of a city. Having spent her whole life in Shanghai, Qiyao has her moments of prosperity and her fair share of loneliness. She finally ... See full summary »
A person's life is destined to be shorter than that of a city. Having spent her whole life in Shanghai, Qiyao has her moments of prosperity and her fair share of loneliness. She finally fades and disappears but Shanghai remains a metropolitan city. Shanghai in the 1930s is glamorous and seductive. A pretty young girl from an ordinary family, Qiyao is lucky enough to win the 2nd runner-up of the "Miss Shanghai" contest. Mr. Cheng, her admirer as well as a photographer who assists her to her success, knows the girl is going to live an extraordinary life. It turns out she is going to witness the decades of changes to her city. 1948, Officer Li, an official in control of the army, keeps her as his lover. During the time, she spends her life at the Parliament ballroom, accompanies him through dangerous situations, and tries to devote all of herself to a man she believes she can spend the rest of her life with. But one day, he disappears and does not return. She never gets to find out the ... Written by
Much was made of this film when it was being made. There was lots of hype, lots of speculation about Sammi's health during the filming and lots of disappointment and criticism when it was released. And not unfounded criticism.
Sammi Cheng plays Qiyao a girl who became Miss Shanghai in the 1940s with the help of a photographer, Cheng (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) and becomes the mistress of a Nationalist general. Soon after, the Communists win the civil war and Li flees China, asking a friend to tell Qiyao that he is dead. Qiyao decides to stay in Shanghai and endures the new Communist regime that sweeps China. But her life isn't easy, she has a child with a young businessman, Ming (Daniel Wu), who is force to ditch his responsibilities as a father, and much later a whirlwind but disastrous relationship with a young man, Kela (Huang Jue).
Sammi Cheng had chosen to take this movie to mark a change in her acting career, moving away from her famous romantic comedies of the past. So, there was an eager expectation of a star performance, only let down by the movie's poor script and storyline.
The plot feels a little chewed up, unsurprisingly, I guess, as it is an adaptation of a novel, but in the end you leave asking yourself what was the point of the story. It only just told of a life so sad most of the time as she jumped between repeated failures of her relationships. The men of her life were meant to reflect a period in the 40 years the film covers, but unfortunately these characters lacked depth in the final edit as their appearances were fleeting. It's all the more disappointing given the slow pace of the film.
There is clearly an attempt to follow in the Wong Kar Wai ways of filming. Put in some beautiful sets, the gorgeous costumes and some imaginative camera-work. But unfortunately, they all fell short of the mark. The lack of anything that showed the city that the film referred to was an obvious omission. But despite the disappointment, there was one performance that did live up to the expectation.
Tony Leung Ka-Fai (not to be confused with his more famous namesake, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) is one of Hong Kong's finest and most experienced actors, and he steals the show with an assertive performance. So much so that he was awarded the Best Actor award for the Hong Kong Film Critics Awards.
But his performance was just a glimmer of what could have been. For Sammi, I'm really disappointed as much criticism of the film was aimed at her, but really, she didn't have much to work with. And it is the lack of depth in the film that really let it down.
One with many regrets.
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