Based on the mid-eighteenth century novel by Cao Xueqin, and taken from editors Cheng Weiyuan and Gao E's adaptation of the novel, this TV-series is a remake of the 1987 version by CCTV. It...
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Janine Chun-Ning Chang,
Based on the mid-eighteenth century novel by Cao Xueqin, and taken from editors Cheng Weiyuan and Gao E's adaptation of the novel, this TV-series is a remake of the 1987 version by CCTV. It is a story about the love between fun-loving and carefree Jia Baoyu and sensitive and ill health-prone Lin Daiyu. It is also about the feudal ruling class system through the prosperity and decline of the four notable families of Jia, Xue, Wang and Hsueh. To prepare for the visit of Baoyu's sister, Imperial Consort Jia Yuanchun, Grand View Garden was installed in the family compound. Baoyu and his siblings and cousins later attend school and spend quality time there; much of the series' course of events take place in the Garden. Written by
Do special effects and nice cinematography a classic make?
Li Shaohong's 2010 "Dream of the Red Mansions" could be called a Dream for the 21st century. You can tell a lot of money has gone into the making of a new adaptation of China's greatest novel. Granted, it has great special effects and marvelous cinematography. But lots of things have gone terribly wrong in this adaptation.
The hairdo is awful. It's as bad as everyone says. Not just awful but distracting. The netizens are right in saying that something stylized in kunqu opera will not do in a TV series. The makeup and hairdo handicap the cast members and everyone seems to be grotesquely unnatural in the way they act.
Next, the script is tedious and clumsy. I would call it simply lazy - a cut-and-paste job, where it is heavily reliant on a male voice-over to tell the story. (And not through images.) Now why anyone wants to listen to a voice-over instead of dialogue? Won't it be better to listen to an audiobook instead -- which defeats the purpose of a HDTV adaptation?
The music is terrible as well. The songs in the 1987 are now well known classics, the sound effects and accompanying soundtrack here are eerie (!). The director uses slow-motion and fast forwards in a very distracting manner which don't seem to add anything but distraction to the scenes.
The worst thing about this series is that the acting is hopelessly juvenile. It's clear many of the actors haven't had any acting lessons and some of the performances border on the absurd.
To illustrate what I mean - take a certain scene in episode one for example. Jiao Xing (Lucky in the David Hawkes' translation) turns back to take a glimpse at Jia Yucun. In feudal times Chinese women are not supposed to look so daringly at a guest, so she must "steal" two glances in a furtive way. (This scene is excised in the 1987 adaptation). In the 2010 version I feel like I'm watching a modern 21st-century woman looking back and simpering openly at a male guest - a great taboo in male-dominated imperial times.
Finally: I really think director Li Shaohong missed completely the wit, elegance, profundity and tragedy of this book. The 1987 adaptation brings you back in time to an illustrious Chinese family c. 1720. You forget yourself and immerse yourself completely in the series. This newer adaptation is forever reminding you that this is a US$17.55 million 2010 production. I'm sorry I have to be so harsh but I really think this production is a colossal waste of money and the audience's time.
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