Thursday, May 24, 2007

Youyuan Jing Meng (Peony Pavilion)

Written and directed by photographer-turned-filmmaker Chinese Yonfan tells the story of two women, one the fifth concubine to a wealthy man and his cousin, a schoolteacher. The first living an unhappy life and the second having a troubled heart about who to love.

The first half of the movie has dreamlike quality, as if filtered through the haze of opium smoke and is a visual delight driven more by atmosphere, ambiance and attention to period details and it borders into being a musical with characters constantly breaking into song interludes. Many of the songs –as well as the movie title- are taken from a well-known Ming Dynasty opera and these interludes make this half feel like a stage play. In this half Japanese actress Rie Miyazawa (Cui Hua) is extraordinary and the lead character.

The second half evolves into a more modern time, leaving behind the world of Chinese opera and the story stars to develop and becomes very intense and interesting. In this half Taiwanese Joe Wang (Rong Lan) comes to the fore with a performance that is subtlety and passionate.

Seems it took two and half years in the making and Yonfan effort results in a unique and at times amazing invocation of decadence and decaying beauty. Coming from a photographer profession is no surprise that cinematography is quite spectacular.

But most of all tells a story of love in such a subtle and marvelous way that even if the movie did not had all the outstanding values, all the honors (4 awards and 4 nominations in three international film awards and festivals) and the incredible attention to details, will be one not to miss.

The end product of a good story plus outstanding cinema values is a complete oeuvre of art and consequently is not for all audiences

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