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An espionage thriller set in the 1950s and adapted from the novel "Year Suan/Plot Against" by May Jia. Tony Leung Chiu Wai plays a blind man who works for a piano tuner. He is recruited for a spy mission because of his exceptional hearing.
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You know Valentine's Day is just around the corner when the screens begin to fill with movies designed specifically to commemorate the day. You got to salute the filmmakers of Look For A Star for keeping faith with a formula that doesn't seem to tire, and I guess it has legs to travel especially when you have the charismatic and still youthful looking Andy Lau (he doesn't look like he's pushing 50) romancing Shu Qi in a rather fantasy like premise, and still keep it rather appealing because love is in the air.
The obscenely rich man falling for the poor girl isn't anything new to begin with, just one of the many combinations to have your lead protagonists background set for an opposites attract. Like what Hollywood had with Pretty Woman, and what Bollywood recently had in Ghajini starring Aamir Khan. In fact, the love story here does have parallels with the latter, since the rich man, through a series of assumptions, managed to hide his identity from his lady love, one of the reasons being it makes perfect sense to test if that somebody falls for you because of who you are, and not the size of your bank account.
So Andy Lau plays Sam Ching, a billionaire developer with his sights firmly set with projects in Macau, one of which happens to be the MGM Grand. While wondering the casino tables, he chances upon Shu Qi's Milan, a sassy (what else?) cabaret dancer cum part-time dealer at the baccarat table, who catches his eye because she seems to dispense good advice to gamblers to avoid borrowing or even gambling, which means lesser profits for the company of course. For her, it's the assumption that he's one of the many poor souls who chain themselves to the gambling table, and helps out the complete stranger by sending him to the pier in order to leave Macau.
Directed by Andew Lau, better know for many a crime thriller flick and who last helmed a romance flick Sausalito some 9 years ago, this story would have sagged a bit if not for its intelligent fusing of 2 more sets of lovers. Cindy Tang and James Yuen's story had attempted to be an ensemble off love stories of sorts, and having 3 here is more than a handful to handle, which was pulled off quite effortlessly by Andrew Lau. It's a romantic movie with the central one being that of Sam and Milan, and the other two stemmed from Sam's trusted assistants, company secretary Jo (Denise Ho) and personal chauffeur Tim (Lam Ka Wah).
While Sam Ching the character may pass off as rather hard to read initially, when together with Tim and Jo the trio share the same problem in their love life, which generalizes that the busy and the well to do, have some vastly different concerns when thinking of getting hitched. In fact, this would have alienated the average joe folks in the audience I felt, if not for all their heartfelt performances. Denise Ho brought out some vivid alpha-female tendencies while being pursued by a lowly maintenance guy Lin Jiu (Zhang Hanyu), in an arc which I thought was the most touching of the lot, while Tim's dalliances with a divorced woman (Shannon Fok) whom he met on a blind date set up by Sam, happened to be the most clichéd and given the shortest screen time.
It's an examination into how love can transcend status only if you allow it to, without giving two hoots about what others want to think and read into things, and the set romantic pieces being smartly engineered to well the heart and the eyes with tears at the appropriate moments. Such opportunities get exploited when Sam's status gets revealed, which turns the movie into a more interesting direction. However, the only jarring bit, which you can experience from the audience's very audible quizzing, was why the need to introduce the dominating mom and ex-wives complication, which doesn't exactly get addressed properly, throwing up more questions about the character of Sam, and at certain moments do confirm his rather chauvinistic ways.
Macau itself is a beautiful backdrop for a romantic film, and having been there, I'd dare say this film captured the nice looking side of it, especially with the plenty of postcard perfect pictures of having the brightly lit casinos like the MGM Grand, Venetian, Wynn's and the unmistakably prominent Lisboa peppering the landscape. The Macau Tourism Board should be pleased with his effort. And also pleasing to Hong Kong cinephiles would be the long- time-no-see appearances of Maria Cordero, David Chiang, Rebecca Pan and George Lam taking on supporting roles here.
It's one of those feel good romantic movie that doesn't do no wrong, and clocking in at almost two hours, I felt that the last act involving the game show, was something that came out of fantasy, which on one hand would seem rather implausible, but on the other necessary in order to swiftly wrap up all the loose threads in one fell swoop. As it turned out it's rather enjoyable, and should make for a perfect date movie with that special someone of yours. Just remember to bring along some tissues too.
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