Monday, June 02, 2008

Chinese Box

Third I saw another Jeremy Irons movie this time by Wayne Wang and co starring none other than Gong Li and Maggie Cheung. This 1997 movie is one that does not have many good reviews in America, drew strong not positive reaction from Chinese authorities and some viewers, and obviously was acclaimed by European art critics.

The movie superficially tells many stories around Jeremy Iron’s character and they seem like not related or not well constructed around John the character Iron’s play. Well, it is true, because in my opinion you do not have to only follow John and whatever he does, you have to know and understand the background of the historic moment where the movie is set.

The movie is set during six crucial months of Hong Kong history, when the British are about to leave their colony to give it back to China. Is not that this movie is a documentary or tells about what happened… well, not directly. To me all main characters are metaphors of every side involved in that historic moment. John is a dying British journalist that came to Hong Kong for possible no special reason but to escape from England lifestyle, Vivian (Gong Li) is a Chinese woman that has a bad past, cannot make it in the present because of her past and will try to start anew; and Jean (Maggie Cheung) is a Chinese woman that lost her beauty, sanity and life because falling for a British boy when she was in school, an impossible love.

So, everything that happens to the movie characters is Wang’s vision of his homeland and the transition that happens when the film is set and in several interviews he states that this is his homage to his homeland and the historic moments.

I have seen this film before (it is a Gong Li movie!) and I like it then and I like it now even when I have to admit that this is not one of the best roles for Gong Li, but still it is fascinating to be able to see her in totally western robes (like blue jeans) and her performance is very good as a troubled woman that wishes to overcome her past, marry a Chinese man that’s ashamed of her, or marry a British man that loves her and go to England, but opts to start afresh in her own homeland, where she knows is the only place where she’ll overcome her real problems. Does this sound like Hong Kong possibilities??? Just wait until you see Cheung role that presents another Hong Kong facet and Ruben Blades visiting but always leaving something behind character that to me is none other than China. If you want to read some of Wang’s words about this movie go here.

Anyway as a movie is totally art cinema with dark cinematography and not slow pace, lots of handheld camera and great editing. The movie premiered in competition at the 1997 Venice Film Festival and has other nominations and awards.

If you haven’t seen this movie and you’re Gong Li’s fan, then it is a must be seen as not only perhaps is her most westernized role done locally, but also is her first English speaking role. If you saw it years ago, then revisit the movie today as Wang’s less angry film about Hong Kong (he has a short that’s really angry) and because of Gong Li, even when I have to agree that the chemistry between Iron’s and Li it wasn’t there.


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