Monday, December 13, 2010

Pink Tears (1965) with Julie Yeh Feng

I don't know what's more impressive in the opening scenes of Pink Tears (1965): the sets of Julie Yeh Feng? I mean, the interiors are all spacious, gorgeous, and used effectively. And Julie Yeh Feng strides through them looking lovely, a little bit confident and a little bit arrogant.

Julie Yeh Feng plays Bai, a woman with many, many suitors. In an almost comic moment, the film first shows Bai turning down the advances of Mr. Fang (an almost unrecognizable and obsequious Ku Feng). She tells the man to go home and love his wife the way he loves her, even returning the $100,000HK gift he's bought for her. And then she starts coughing, Camile-like.

Ling Yun plays Mr. Zhang, the piano teacher for Bai's daughter (Fung Bo-Bo).

Anyway, Pink Tears dances around what Bai does for a living to support her daughter -- is she a hooker or a singer? Ling Yun's character's father calls her a "social butterfly" and indicates that a bank manager killed himself over the woman.

When Mr. Zhang shows up unexpectedly at Bai's lavish birthday party, the music strikes an ominous note on the soundtrack. A well-used and almost unrecognizable Tien Feng tells Ling Yun's smitten piano teacher never to fall in love with the woman.

In a wonderful moment, Bai confesses to Mr. Zhang that she is a courtesan in so many words. Again, director Chun Kim expertly uses his locations and so chooses a quiet backyard patio to stage the conversation.

The director did Till The End Of Time (1966) as well and that film was -- in my humble opinion -- a near masterpiece.

But, unlike that Jenny Hu flick, the leading lady here is a bit older and a little bit sultry. It's really hard to write about Julie Yeh Feng here as the mix of sexiness and vulnerability is a unique one -- a little like Kim Novak, as others have noted.

After Bai belts out a big life-affirming number at her party -- right after confessing her job to Mr. Zhang -- she gets sick and the guy gets worried.

(Check out the clip at the bottom of this review for a glimpse of that big life-affirming number.)

The trajectory of this sort of film is pretty easy to predict, eh?

Look for Lau Leung Wa, from 1965's Crocodile River, as Bai's friend.

Of course, it's not the actress who would become Mrs. Lo Wei who helps bring Bai back to life but Ling Yun.

Well, even the dumbest viewer could probably predict that after Ling Yun proposes to Julie Yeh Feng, things don't go so smooth. Ling Yun's character's mother (Ouyang Sha-Fei) objects to her son marrying a courtesan and so the guy promises to never get married to spite her.

That little drama is resolved once the couple do get married and Bai and her little girl move in with Ling Yun. I know he's the guy but wouldn't it have made more sense for Ling Yun and his mother to give up his apartment and move into Bai's mansion?

I think the viewer is supposed to get that Bai is giving up her lavish life for Mr. Zhang. No more swinging birthday parties in the mansion.

I'll admit that the first half of Pink Tears seemed stronger to me than the second half which seemed to repeat moments and moods -- I felt like the plot ran out a good 15 minutes before the film gave up on it.

Now that's not a slam; I love stuff like Pink Tears. I am just being honest. The film is not a masterpiece but, for this kind of sappy melodrama, it is almost a masterpiece.

The plot's themes seem uniquely Hong Kong: the needs of family at war with an idea of shame and one's place in a bustling city and sometimes harsh society.

I'm not going to give away what does happen in the film but I can say what I wished had happened: I think Pink Tears would have approached masterpiece levels of filmmaking had the two main characters just left Hong Kong.

A film covering their troubles starting over in another place, with the woman's daughter in tow, would have been an interesting film. But it wouldn't have had the obvious drama that this flick has.

Pink Tears certainly delivers some fantastic performances and sets, if nothing else.

You can order Pink Tears on DVD here.