It's great to know that not everybody is out there making Superman Forever and good film is still made.
And I don't believe the male lead has anything on Mr. Hoffman. There's only one Hoffman, period.
In all, I think the movie is not a masterpiece by design, but ended up pretty good by execution.
It's film carries so much insight, humanity, and sensibility without fanfare and propaganda that I can't believe none of the mainstream media in the West has pick it one up onto the top of the pile. Maybe true insights are indeed dangerous and bad for business. I am thankful for the film makers for making this happen and for all of us to see.
After watching this film, suddenly the lyrics of a popular Chinese kid's song came to me. It's called "Two Tigers" and roughly goes like this: Two tigers, two tigers. One has no eyes, one has no tail. So funny, so funny.
Maybe it's no as funny if you happen to be one of them, or even just watch them closely, like this film crew did.
Everything is predictable - the good guys always got away and the bad guys got nailed. There's no pretty girl in this movie though. Indiana Jones is a silly movie with lots of fun. This is a wanna-be 'serious movie' without fun.
Oh, the special effects - awful! So fake and obvious, making those lousy computer games look real in comparison.
It puzzles me why folks like Robbins, Landau and Murray pick a loser like this. They must be too old already.
The only thing moderately interesting about the film to me is the cinematography. It's very pleasing to watch. This is not unlike those submarine movies - need to be spacious enough not to be claustrophobic but not too much to be unreal. I love the rusty dim lit color theme as well.
Alas, this is the 21 century, with all the early education through the web, wii, and everything else above and beyond, today's youngsters are no Indiana Jones fans any more.
And this one, is quite a few cut below that classic. Or shall we say, not even close?
Time wasted. Sad.
Try The Bronx Story by De Niro et al. Now that's a worthy movie with real interesting story to tell.
The movie could have been a lot more convincing with a different cast. My two cents.
The only gripe I have with this movie is that it gives me the impression that this movie tries too hard to pull too many strings at the same time. Too many impossible characters from the far edge of life all converge in the most impossible circumstances ... The end result is a bit over the top and I feel numb half way into it. It also makes the drama feel forced as well. It really doesn't have to be this way I thought. As I remember this director didn't use this many exclamation marks in his previous movies.
But regardless, this movie is like the directors other movies, poetic and beautiful in a very unusual way. Too bad the top notch cast and performance can't really carry this one into a master piece as they should have - sometimes saying less actually is more. This movie tried to say too much too loud. Just my two cents.
Only thing about the movie that is kinda disappointing is that I thought the ending of this movie actually betrayed the writer/director's unique style of low key and moderation/ showing something through nothing. To me the ending is really not necessary - I thought the real suffering is in the living not the dead. Maybe Jia ZK wanted to show us he can jerk tears as well if he likes to? Anyway, I was a bit disappointed by this ending really - or the death of the construction worker. Maybe Jia is the new China's Dickens. His movie language is disturbing and profound. What we see through his lens in China is not pretty, but real, excruciatingly real. China is often shown as the high rises in the city, or the shanty towns on the fringe, Jia is the gifted few who show everything else in between as what they really are - and that is the real China most people don't care to see or don't want to see. When you are stuck in between, you don't always get good choices...
I used to think Joan Chen only as a pretty face. But her performance here, even though short, changed my view completely. She can really act and act well! And she's still beautiful more than ever. Gawd bless her! The other pro actresses have proved their mastery in acting long ago and didn't disappoint here either.
But the most credit has to go to the writer/director Jia - these short stories never really intertwine with each other as a plot, but together they are so strong and compelling that makes any smart and coy plot pale in comparison. Jia again nailed the pulse of the real life drama right on without wasting much of anything.
I can't help but feel sympathetic to those who can't get 'it' because of the lack of background knowledge about the modern China. Only it's ironic, or even rather sad that, for such an iconic Chinese master movie maker with such a quintessential Chinese story telling, only found his fame mostly outside China today.
Once a famous jazz critic wrote that if you remove all the names of the white jazz players from its history, you haven't changed jazz a single bit. IMHO, by the time the outside world gets tired of the curiosity of Jia, over time his mastery will establish itself in China and only then will he find his real audience.
I always liked the French movies for there seemingly understated fashion over the dog barks of moral debate and preaching of the Anglo-American types - assuming the viewer is deaf and dumb. Well, the movie's ending is a bit surprise to me. Instead of letting the actors barking at each other, it chose to create a big bang with its twisted story line in the end. I certainly saw it coming after the middle point of the film. But still, I'd have no problem giving it 10 had it not been for the forced ending. I thought the biggest tragedy for people like Toto is that they never got anything right and nobody cares what they do or do not do. Therefore, to force Alfred to 'envy' Toto in the end and let Toto leave with a bang instead of a wimp is certainly gratifying to the audience, Hollywood style. But it feels very concocted and unnatural. Trying to force a tragedy into a comedy really is pointless. Because life really do sucks for folks like Toto.
I gave 9 instead of 10 because I am not convinced that Vanya could have mastered all the necessary reading skill in that short period of time at his age (5-6). Understanding the stuff from a formal document is not the same as guessing some short phrases from a 'Winnie the Pooh's book. Of course he could be a true genius. But this 'exception' feels forced comparing to all other characters and plot elements since there's nothing else that requires ostensible exception in life - all could have really happened. Even the weather was made to appear 'natural' rather than following the characters mood in the plot like less movies would have done. I can't help feeling that those who asked why the driver let the boy go were brain washed by the 'black/white good vs evil' Hollywood fairy tales (nonsenses) for too long. In real world, most people do have hearts. And it shouldn't take a Russian speaker to figure this one out.
This is not a dark movie despite its plot line seems to suggest at the first glance. The true power of it lies in the beautiful warmth of humanity in many of the unlikely places, unseemly characters, and unfortunate moments. Life can be hard for some, but worthwhile if they try hard enough.
No dramatic beginning or ending here. Everything just happened. But of course, all the details are there to make it all feels so natural and smooth. That's what the masters do.
But the story writing fits perfectly with the title "China Box". You have to have enough background knowledge and sensibility to appreciate it. The movie never falls into the cliché of east-meets-the-west. Instead, it uses the historical sea-change in Hong Kong as the back drop, as the grand orchestra accompanying the extraordinary solo of the age old story of love, a man and a woman. Nothing is obvious, and nothing gives away in the middle and the tension keeps building till the very last moment. I first saw the movie when it came out in theater. But 10 years later I saw it again on tape, it blew me away like no other. I'd give it a 10 if not for the rather limited acting skill from Gong Li. There's got to be someone else out there among the 1.3 billion who can really act. Maggie can act but she certainly falls short in her natural beauty for this role, in comparison to Gong Li. One other thing I thought was bit of a drag is Maggie's almost perfect English. I thought a character from the very bottom of Hong Kong society with limited education probably would be more convincing if she has more local accent. That's my past experience with folks from Hong Kong. Only those from the privileged the class in Hong Kong would speak like her in the movie... I am so disappointed by the featured review on IMDb here. Because in the past this web site has consistently picked a more sensible review for other movies I ran into. I felt rather compelled to write something to clear the bad rap of this great movie, as much as I can. For those who cares, Maggie Cheung was in another great movie "In the Mood for Love" (2000). But that movie was more limited in scope and more nuanced in its presentation, a more oriental romance. This movie clearly more European is breadth and depth in its attempt. Some might find the political overtone - a rather negative focus on the 1997 handover (suicide, etc), a bit predictable and cliché. But in this particular movie it does set the mood for the over all theme of the movie - after all, this is a rather a sad romance. No happy endings for any one. Only human spirit triumph. For that, I thought the movie title is a bit off actually. IMHO, China Box is only a clever device that is seemingly simple but capable of endless intrigue and twist. That title would be much more fit for a thriller. This one I thought is more about the ultimate triumph of the unyielding human spirit for truth, for real meaning, and for love as the word originally meant, overcoming all odds, even the limitation of one's unavoidable mortality.
It's a master piece.