Saturday, December 02, 2006

[China Digital Film Festival] A Time To Love (Qing Ren Jie)

How long will you wait for somebody you love? Will you hold on to that hope and have faith, or will you buckle at the uncertainties, and choose to move on? You'll never know until you're in it, and are forced to make some decisions. While you can decide for yourself, you'll never really know how the other half will fare, especially if it's long distance.

A Time to Love, starring Lu Yi and Zhao Wei as star-crossed lovers, adapts the basic premise from Shakespeare's timeless romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. The references are countless, be it direct like the very cheesy replication of the famous Act II Scene II, or indirectly. As childhood sweethearts, their love for each other is forbidden by their respective families due to a mysterious feud between the heads of the households. So long as it remains mysterious, so too will their love be hidden away from their families, resulting in stealing glances, and meeting up in secret. But how long can this continue before taking its toil, especially when one turns out to be a high flyer and ambition gets in the way? Even the characters fit R&J to a T.

Lu Yi's Hou Jia is actually quite wishy-washy, afraid to express his feelings for his love, and is kept in his place by his wheelchair bound mother. Probably out of filial piety, given that it's a Chinese/Asian virtue, but having her dictate his life, is probably as pathetic as can be. There are times though, that as his character develops, it threads on dangerous ground just as the cad that Lu Yi played in Jasmine Woman, starring yet another Chinese actress who have made international waves, Zhang Ziyi.

Zhao Wei's Qu Ran on the other hand, is as strong in character as Juliet, the one calling the shots on how she wants to live her life, and to love who she wants to, despite her parental objections. Zhao Wei herself lights up the screen with her scenes each time, and no doubt her bright illuminating eyes contribute to that effect, expressing her fear, anger, loneliness, happiness, all rolled into one and projected through the windows of the soul.

The movie, itself based on a short story, contains plenty of cheesy moments that will probably be appreciated by the romantics, or cringe just about every general movie going audience. Familiar themes for romantic movies are at their element here, with beautiful camera shots setting up scenes of isolation, and of waiting, and bringing to life the love between our lovers. There is a sex scene (*gasp* it ain't so stuffy after all!) but you don't get to see much.

Just To Whet Your Appetite

There are some movies that perpetually shoot itself in the foot with its bad ending. You know, those that have an excellent build up, right until the finale, but destroys all the good work done with the very last frame. You can add this movie to that list of yours. While the non-romantics would have already rolled their eyes as the story progressed, those who are holding out until the end will probably be nodding in unison with its open ended third act, but unfortunately, that dumb final line had to appear as the end title. And no, it's not "The End", but by doing that, it robbed the movie of whatever shreds of credibility it tried to keep alive, and topped it with stinky cheese.

P.S. It's a pity that this movie only had less than 10 persons in the audience, one of whom is Kenneth Tan himself. Guess having two film festivals running side by side, in the holiday season of December, does take its toil on the attendance of festival movies.

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