Monday, May 31, 2010

Cheng Pei-Pei Ballet Scene from Blue Skies (1967)

Following my earlier review of Blue Skies (1967), here is a sequence from the film of Cheng Pei-Pei putting her ballet training to better use than in most of her wuxia films.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cecilia Cheung in The Legend of Zu (2001)

To say that director Tsui Hark's The Legend of Zu (2001) is ridiculous is to state the obvious. It's like criticizing a Godzilla film for not being realistic. I mean, it didn't take long for me as a young sci-fi/monster movie nerd to stop laughing at the bad dubbing in a Godzilla film and appreciate instead the artistry and weird, surreal beauty of the limited special effects on display as Mothra hatched on an island off the coast of Japan.

The problem with The Legend of Zu is not limited special effects but, rather, that there's no limit on the special effects. Like a Star Wars prequel, the film is largely CGI or enhanced in some way so that the actors are sometimes the only real thing in a framed shot. Personally, I thought the film was a beautiful mess. I've watched it a few times -- even once without any subtitles on to just drink in the unique vision on display.

Yes, Tsui Hark may be past his prime but, much like George Lucas, even his worst ideas yield a kind of visual on-screen poetry.

That poetry seemed all the more magical to me in 2001 as The Legend of Zu briefly looked like it was going to be a rarity on DVD. The Weinsteins and Miramax pumped money into the film only to buy it up and shelve it for some time -- like Shaolin Soccer (2001). Both films were recut, dubbed, rescored, and released in test markets to sometimes dreadful results.

Both films also featured the lovely Cecilia Cheung. Before I knew anything about her as a singer -- or scandal magnet -- or two-time mom -- I was a bit smitten with her due to The Legend of Zu. She looked otherworldy indeed as she flew and swooped in front of Buddhist-inspired backdrops and CGI-skyscapes.

So, to please perhaps only myself, here are 20 shots of Ceci from the weird and beautiful The Legend of Zu (2001):

(These shots are from the Korean edition of the DVD which is a bit higher quality than the first Hong Kong editions of the film on DVD...)

Shu Qi in My Wife Is A Gangster 3 (2006)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Let's Have A Baby with Pat Ha

A genuinely funny opening montage begins 1985's Let's Have A Baby. An infertile man -- well, I guess the subtitles meant impotent? -- and a woman determined not to have a baby -- she's an overpopulation expert -- meet on a campus in Hong Kong and get married. We see a montage of their first three anniversaries and their childless life seems quiet and relatively happy until...a guy leaves his kids at their apartment and they go crazy dreaming of having children of their own.

Alex Man, from Hong Kong Hong Kong (1983), and Pat Ha, from An Amorous Woman of Tang Dynasty (1984) among other titles, play the title couple and they each bring a sort of class to the roles; in what could be a madcap baby comedy, the two normally serious actors manage to be funny without straining too much to be funny. That is a big plus for this viewer.

Funnyman Charlie Cho Cha-Lee gives Peter Mui (Alex Man) the equipment -- dirty movies and sex toys -- that he needs to get his wife, Yuan Kwan (Patricia Ha Man-Jik) pregnant; it seems that his exercise routine to the opening of TVB's "Enjoy Yourself Tonight" did not do the trick.

When Yuan Kwan determines she is fertile and Peter rushes home to impregnate her is exactly when Yuan Kwan's mother comes for a visit. Mom is played by an almost unrecognizable Tanny Tien Ni. For comedic reasons, the couple look themselves in their bedroom for five days and prepare to make a baby.

I don't think I'm giving away anything -- especially since this is a comedy about having a baby -- to reveal that the couple can't conceive due to a problem with Peter's...little solders. So the couple, in a nice montage overlooking Hong Kong from the Peak, discuss their options.

Soon, Yuan Kwan is going to Hawaii to get artifically inseminated which leads to another funny montage in the airport.

After some more comedy business, Yuan Kwan returns and the wait begins for the baby to arrive.

Good-looking cousin Siao Bao (Poon Jan-Wai from An Amorous Woman of Tang Dynasty and Girl With The Diamond Slipper) arrives and Peter starts getting jealous -- especially once he learns that his wife used to bathe with her cousin when they were younger.

After learning that the good-looking doctor works at the same clinic where Yuan Kwan went to get inseminated, Peter starts to get paranoid and Yuan Kwan starts to wonder about Siao Bao as a mate -- or at least as a potential father of her future child.

Here on out the film turns darkly comic. When I say dark, I mean Peter now starts to fantasize -- in more montages -- about killing his supposedly unfaithful wife. Oh, and did I mention the comedy when he tries to give her soup so she'll have a miscarriage?

It sounds worse than it is in the execution, really.

There's a nice little in-joke when Tanny Tien Ni holds up a picture of Yueh Hua and tells the baby that that's his grandfather (the actress married the action star in 1975).

Let's Have a Baby is a pleasant change from the usual Wong Jing-style comedies I'm used to from the Shaws in this era.

Not a masterpiece but a character-driven confection that doesn't overstay its welcome and provides a nice showcase for two normally serious leads.

You can order Let's Have A Baby on DVD here.