Monday, December 15, 2008

[China Film Festival] The Longest Night in Shanghai (夜·上海)

You Owe Me Cab Fare

I won't deny that the draw toward this movie was its star billing with Zhao Wei in the leading role, playing a blue collar taxi driver in the city of Shanghai. But of course again to my surprise in not reading the fine print, I had to muster my limited abilities to read the subtitles of the movie, because this Japanese-Chinese co-production, came only with Chinese subtitles for its Japanese dialogue.

But still, I managed to enjoy every moment of this incredibly romantic movie, though from the onset it might not look like one to begin with. There were some shades of Lost in Translation I guess, except that there's a persistent language barrier between the couple but that added to the charm because they had to rely on non-verbal communication to get their message through.

Motoki Masahiro plays Japanese stylist extrordinaire Mizushima who comes to Shanghai for an exposition, but is clearly unhappy and indifferent during the trip. As it turned out he's facing some serious love triangle issues, and is re-examining his current relationship with his assistant, before deciding to take off to the streets on his own, getting lost in the process. Zhao Wei's Lin Xi is quite the reckless driver who has seen all kinds of action that happen at her cab's backseat, and is deliberately reckless in order to report back to the workshop to have an opportunity to talk to her Dylan Kuo's Dong Dong, the mechanic she admires, who is extremely skilled in really fast repairs.

And of course a fated moment where she accidentally knocks Mizushima down, began an unforgettable night for both as they begin to hang out, at first with her sharing the sights and sounds of Shanghai, before his lack of cash led to abandonment, and slowly the building of a night of friendship amongst two strangers who each have issues of the heart to face up to, and from each other finding a pillar of strength. Zhao Wei definitely gave one of her more memorable performances here as a girl who couldn't find courage to express her feelings, only for her to suffer in silence in what could possibly be the last day to do so, while juggling with her brother's insistence to sell their house to put her on the wrong emotion. You'll probably feel as gutted as she did when she learns of Dong Dong's marriage, and finds every opportunity to get a glimpse of him from afar.

Playing opposite her, Motoki Masahiro had an uphill battle to climb because his role is typical of a foreigner left on strange soils, and spends most of the time being exasperated by Li Xin's antics at trying to shake him off initially. Between the two, I still felt Li Xin's story being the stronger one, although both share some fantastic chemistry despite not being able to understand each other directly. Supporting characters come in the form of a mixture of Japanese and Chinese casts, from Sam Lee as a translator to Naoto Takenaka of Waterboys/Swing Girls fame, and even a two scene cameo by Kitty Zhang!

If there's one thing I attest to in this film, is how Chinese words are still applicable in the Japanese context. While the pronunciation is different, some words retain similar meaning, and this would prove useful for the two to form some communication when sharing their love lives with each other. And with this spending of quality time at random with each other, filled with spontaneity, naturally becomes the catalyst for what could be, and you'll soon find yourself rooting for these two to realize that they could have something good going for them in this one long night they spend together.

This was one of the more enjoyable festivals that I've attended this year, given that I've actually enjoyed every one of the selection, and that's something quite rare. For the romantics, this comes recommended for its premise, its dreamy eye candy cast, and especially its soundtrack and songs used in the film (my favourite is Frally Hines' Breathe). There are a number of iconic romantic moments which will probably move you, and it left you wanting more, especially with that last statement uttered at the end of the movie. I heart this one, really.

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