Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cherie Chung - Two Semi-Obscure Films

Mr. Mistress

How did Cherie Chung go, in the space of a few years, from near-classic films such as Peking Opera Blues and Hong Kong Hong Kong to crap like 1988's Mr. Mistress? This film is a mess!

Cherie Chung plays Alice Chung, an aerobics queen -- which in this film seems to mean a sort of dancer/exercise instructor/businesswoman -- who is visiting Hong Kong from America with her randy associate, Peter Tsang (Eric Tsang) in tow.

The film starts with a glimpse of lovely young couple Peter Ho (Hoh Sau Sau) and his wife (Nina Li) -- who also happens to be an aerobics instructor. The sequence is meant to show what a perfect little couple the two are, but Hoh Sau Sau is such a lifeless leading man in this film -- and Nina Li so vapid; like the poor man's version of Amy Yip -- that it was impossible for me to care about them as characters.

(The abundance of aerobics nonsense in the film's opening sections makes me guess that this film was made in the aftermath of US films like Perfect and Flashdance; the cheesy Conrad Nagel-esque posters in most of the interior scenes don't date too well either.)

So, Eric Tsang's character imagines drugging Nina Li and having his way with her -- a sequence that is supposed to be funny but is as unfunny as the laziest scene in any Wong Jing "comedy". Eric then accidentally drugs himself as the real-life version of this fantasy plays out and he dresses up in Nina Li's lingerie and hams it up a bit.

The film then abruptly switches tone to a more serious marital drama where Peter Ho's businessman, while attempting to seal a deal with Alice Chung, somehow thinks she is a hooker trying to seduce him in a hotel.

There is some "Three's Company"-style cases of mistaken identity and the couple bond a bit.

Then Nina Li gets jealous, Eric Tsang is fixed up with her cousin and so on.

A really tedious affair that, at 1 hour and 42 minutes, abuses even the most dedicated Cherie Chung fan's patience.

The only selling point of this film is Cherie Chung in a few sexy outfits in a few dance/aerobics sequences. However, if that is the purpose of your viewing, Maybe It's Love delivers on that angle -- and it's a somewhat better film.

The DVD I watched is a new remaster that at least looked decent in most places -- anamorphic widescreen -- even if the subtitles contained a lot of errors.

18 Times

If you ever wanted to see Eric Tsang's bare ass, this is the film for you!

In fact, I should warn any potential viewers that the barrel-like Hong Kong mainstay comes dangerously close to a full-frontal nude scene as well!

With that warning out of the way, I can report that this slight 1988 Cherie Chung film is not a total failure, due in large part to Cherie's scenes with Kenny Bee; it's abundantly clear that the two actors have great chemistry -- a chemistry that I recently enjoyed in The Flying Mr. B.

Cherie plays the unlucky-in-love Gigi, whose many lovers seem to die as soon as they marry the woman. The film is largely a series of vignettes of a few of these incidents until Gigi meets up with Kenny Bee's Jack Wong late in the film.

Gigi seems to be living off of the money she gets from these husbands and is accompanied by her assistant Chi (Hong Kong singing legend, Teresa Carpio).

Cherie's hapless young woman hooks up with a career protester (John Sham) and then Eric Tsang who is a kind of prop comic on the HK nightclub circuit. Maybe it was the faulty subtitles on this DVD, but he's not particularly funny. But it was interesting to see the actor with more hair and playing an almost normal character (apart from the comedy bits on stage).

Unlike his early roles where he was frequently manic, or his recent roles in many cop films, here Eric is a tiny bit more naturalistic.

A tiny bit.

Then Gigi gets involved with a gang of criminals that features an undercover cop, Hi Lo -- I think that was the name -- played by Lowell Lo. The gang's lead heavy is Hong Kong cinema legend Shing Fui On. This sequence is loud, confusing, and not very funny.

And then, finally, the final third of the film involves Kenny Bee's rich playboy, Jack Wong. These scenes almost feel like they belong to another film.

The scenes of the couple's courtship are almost charming and the antic "comedy" of the earlier scenes is more dampened until the finale of the entire film.

This film is not a classic but Cherie is quite appealing as she seems to be playing this much the same way that she played her role in Peking Opera Blues; no one could do that kind of sexy, wide-eyed innocence quite like Cherie could.

Director Joe Cheung is probably more famous as an actor (according to his filmography) but he also directed a few famous Hong Kong films (Bet on Fire and Pom Pom and Hot Hot).

Look for Shaw Brothers regular, Paul Chun as Gigi's psychiatrist. Fellow Shaw actor, Wu Ma is somewhere in this as well.

You can order Mr. Mistress on DVD here.

You can order 18 Times on DVD here.