Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Because of Her with Grace Chang

I may be too lazy to be a good blogger BUT I was inspired by YTSL's post on the films of Wong Tin Lam to dig a DVD off my shelf that had been sitting there for almost two years (!).

So, I finally watched the Panorama DVD of Because of Her with Grace Chang and, while the DVD is one of the worst I've seen in some time (looks like a widescreen print that was cut to fit a standard TV; the top of the screen in some scenes is chopped off; colors actually flash in another!), the film is quite engaging and Grace Chang is delightful.

On the surface, the film is like Blue Skies with Peter Chen and Cheng Pei Pei: both concern the backstage dramas, and romances, of a musical troupe, and both use the musical productions that the troupe performs to accentuate, and reflect, the emotions of the main characters.

Needless to say, the Cathay production of Because of Her (1963) does not have quite the budget of the later Shaw production (perhaps a better treatment on DVD would have allowed a viewer such as myself to see more of the production values in the musical numbers).

However, the direction was assured and Grace Chang is far more natural as a performer than someone like Linda Lin Dai, in my opinion.

The scene where she revs up the tempo of a song during her audition into a rock beat is simply fantastic. I was hooked from that point on.

And the direction is good for the time -- there are a few nearly wordless sequences that work perfectly -- the scene after the producer/conductor proposes to Meixin (Grace Chang) is very touching as she thinks he expects her to sleep with him and he simply gathers his blanket and pillow to retire to another room like a gentleman. Grace's expressions convey a range of emotions in a matter of seconds: shock to resignation to admiration. I think in some ways scenes like this are better than the larger budgeted productions of the Shaw Brothers at the same time.

The musical numbers are sometimes silly -- the angels and devils one, in particular, and the dancers carrying John F. Kennedy posters in another -- but Grace Chang gives it her all and stands out from the crowd in every number.

Wong Tin Lam went on to father Wong Jing and is best known for his roles in films such as Election.

As soon as I catch up on my unopened Shaw DVDs, I think I'll catch up on more of the Cathay re-issues and I hope the DVDs are of better quality than this one.

But, at the rate I'm going, I may not get to them for a few more years! Ha!