Monday, September 27, 2010

Lovers Destiny (1975) with Ching Li and Li Ching

While ostensibly a weepy, Chor Yuen's 1975 film, Lovers Destiny -- no apostrophe on the title card -- is a historical one. Set in the early part of the 20th century, the film also boasts Chen Kuan Tai and Shih Szu so you know there's going to be some action amid all the heartfelt stuff.

Street performers and martial artists Guan Shaofeng (Chen Kuan Tai) and his sister, Xiuzhu (Shih Szu), are saved from a corrupt street cop by the kind interventions of Mr. Fan (Chung Wa). Mr. Fan is also the guy who was gazing longingly at singer Ching Li earlier in the picture.

Ching Li plays the poor Feng Feng-Shian and her mother (Ouyang Sha-Fei) looks to Chung Wa's college student as a possible way out for her daughter. Fan helps the girl get enrolled in a school and then helps Shih Szu's family as well.

Then Chen Kuan Tai tries to get his sister married to Chung Wa.

It seems as if Fan is already set to marry Lishia (Li Ching) even though he clearly is meant to be with Ching Li.

Li Ching, on the other hand, looks so much older here. Not much babyfat in her face anymore, she is lovely but a bit less endearing than she was some 10 years earlier in other Shaw Brothers titles.

Once Chung Wa intervenes and dances with Li Ching, saving her from being harassed by a local warlord-type (Stanley Fung), it's only a matter of time before something tragic happens.

Chung Wa's Fan is set to go away to Hangzhou but first he's got to have a lot of romantic scenes with Ching Li at the pagoda overlooking the water. It's sappy stuff but it is effective. Ching Li is really good at this sort of thing and she feels natural despite the fact that her character is a bit underwritten.

Chung Wa's character is not exactly deep either but he's sort of the ideal man for the women in this film given the era of the story.

Over the course of the 91-minutes of this thing, Lovers Destiny covers a lot of styles and, depending on the segment of the film you're in, can seem a bit schizophrenic to a casual viewer. Still, it was nice to see Shih Szu doing something that was primarily a drama and Ching Li was quite good even if her acting largely consisted of weeping and looking concerned.

Li Ching felt wasted in this in her small role and, honestly, any Shaw starlet of the 1970s could have probably done what the role required.

I watched Lovers Destiny on VCD, but you can order the DVD here.