Monday, February 8, 2010

The Price of Love with Chin Ping

Teddy Robin, perhaps best known to me as the director of Shanghai Shanghai, turns in a starring role in The Price of Love from the Shaw Brothers studios.

The film opens with poor girl Fang Fang (Chin Ping) being led to the beach by a neighbor boy. Seems the girl is not only poor but blind. The melodrama begins!

As she enjoys the sound of the waves at the beach, the camera travels up the hillside to the spacious home of Lin Wu-Sheng (Teddy Robin) who is singing a song on guitar as his cousin and friends arrive for the afternoon. Teddy Robin's unique physical attributes are worked into the plot and his portrayal of Wu-sheng.

Wu-sheng is the son of a rich tycoon and he's dropped out of college and so spends his days alone in his seaside mansion listening to music. He meets Chin Ping's blind Fang Fang on the beach and begins a friendship.

Fang gets beaten by her mother at home. And her grandfather (Sam Liu) is kind but he's an alcoholic.

So can a blind girl overlook a rich, lonely boy's physical imperfections? Can Teddy Robin sing another song?

After wandering into traffic -- no kidding -- and causing a multi-car pile-up in an attempt to meet Wu-sheng at the beach, Fang is sold to a creepy old guy by her mother. The new "family" sit around playing cards and gambling as Fang's new "granny" locks her in a room.

With the help of a neighbor boy, she escapes and shows up at the mansion of Wu-sheng in the rain.

Wu-sheng decides to help Fang get an operation to restore her sight and she essentially moves into his mansion.

As Chin Ping's Fang dreams of having her sight in a rose-filled garish dream/song sequence, Wu-sheng worries about what will happen when she regains her sight and sees that he is a short man with a bit of a hunchback.

Despite the setup, and the fact that the material is already sappy, I wasn't too moved. It's not that I'm a big cynic -- I am but I love sappy movies sometimes -- but rather that the film feels flat. Teddy Robin plays his part completely understated and almost emotionless and Chin Ping, while a convincing blind girl, is a bit too perky.

The Price of Love is not a horrible film and it's interesting as a snapshot of the era in which it was made. I just didn't like it as much as I thought I would.

Director Wu Chia Hsiang started off as an actor -- he appeared in Mambo Girl (1957), a film on my to-be-watched very short list -- and then turned his hand to directing, helming such recent faves of mine like Sweet and Wild (1966), A Place To Call Home (1969), and Guess Who Killed My Twelve Lovers (1969).

You can order The Price of Love on DVD here.