LOVER'S DESTINY: All-star cast shines in historical drama
LOVER'S DESTINY (1975) is a romantic melodrama set in 1920s China produced by Hong Kong's Shaw Bros. studio and directed by the studio's greatest stylist, Chor Yuen. Using the studio's lavish sets, he creates an insular world for its large cast of compelling characters, mixing his idealized depictions of beauty and romance with sudden, disruptive violence and tragedy. And he employs many of the studio's top-ranked performers. Its central character is Jia-Shu (Tsung Hua), a young and handsome student from a rich family who sees a sweet, shy singer, Feng-Shian (Ching Li), perform in a nightclub and falls in love with her to the point of paying for her schooling. His family is trying to push him into a marriage with Li-Shia (Li Ching), the beautiful, pampered daughter of the local Treasury official. He meets and comes to the aid of a street performer (Chen Kuan Tai) and his lovely sister, Xiu Ziu (Shih Szu). So he winds up with three gorgeous women from different classes all in love with him. And he proves his worth to each of them. For instance, when a fancy party for Li-Shia is interrupted by the arrival of brutal warlord Generalissimo Zhang (Stanley Fung) who takes a quick interest in Li-Shia, Jia-Shu boldly strides forth and insists it's time for his dance with Li-Shia, breaking the impasse and allowing Zhang to back off without losing face. Things take a turn for the worse when Jia-Shu is called away to his hometown to care for his ailing mother. When he returns, he finds that the Generalissimo has taken a liking to Feng-Shian and forced her to be his Sixth Mistress by threatening the lives of her mother and uncle. At first Jia-Shu feels betrayed, but gradually learns the full scope of Zhang's cruelty and enlists Li-Shia and the kung fu-fighting family of street performers to help him rescue Feng-Shian.
Each of the three main females in the film is a distinct character, different from each other in many ways, but united in their love and devotion to Jia-Shu. I've seen each of them, Ching Li, Shih Szu and Li Ching, in many films and never fail to be newly amazed at their versatility as actresses and their extraordinary screen presence and charisma. There isn't a single false note from any of them. I was also impressed with Stanley Fung as the capricious warlord. I know him mostly as a comic actor in the Lucky Stars films of the 1980s with Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan, where he more than holds his own with the best of Hong Kong's comic talent, so it's always a revelation when I see him in a dramatic role from earlier in his career. As Generalissimo Zhang, he avoids stereotypical villain mannerisms and plays him as a former peasant who has attained real power for the first time in his life and is not always sure how far he can go and has a key aide to advise him. He knows what he wants, but he's insecure and impetuous. You can see his mind slowly working every time he's faced with a new challenge. He's a vicious killer and we feel no sympathy for him, but he's also a human being. It's a harsh, but honest portrayal. The action finale allows kung fu stars Chen Kuan Tai and Shih Szu to show their considerable skills.
0 of 0 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this