Figured out how to Airplay a ripped DVD from my Mac Mini to my TV. Ok, that’s geeky. But that’s not the important thing. While messing around the files, I discovered a folder containing some ripped movies (mostly from original DVDs, mind) and rediscovered this particular film.
And I couldn’t help sitting down and watching it through for maybe the fifteen time so far. And I thought, didn’t I write something about it in an earlier life? Is it still around? (You never know with digital stuff.)
And here it is.
p/s: Yah. I bought the soundtrack too.
<< A song for Ah Min >>
When one is feeling down and in need of consolation and diversion, “C’est la vie, mon cheri” is the antidote. It’s one of the mysteries of life that a weepie would turn out to be such a life-affirming film, and that even though it has the saddest of endings.
I discover intriguing trivia too, upon each viewing. Ah Jie is either twenty-nine or thirty; that resounds because the following year － just days away! – will be the last I can relate to him, age-wise. A career going nowhere, a stubborn streak of self-righteous artistic integrity, an inability to relate to others.. oh, all right, I am reading too much into it.
And I’ve just watched it for the sixth or seventh time, not too much of an addiction, really, considering that it was released almost fifteen years ago.
It’s so much more than the simple story of a star-crossed couple which captivates me.
There is, for instance, the fest of a rojak of a soundtrack which works wonders in conveying the mood of a soon-to-be bygone era, as well as the brilliant supporting cast of Fung Bo Bo, Paul Chun, Sylvia Chang – who happens to be my favourite actress – and Carina Lau among others.
There is the naturalistic, sensitive direction by Derek Yee which somehow triumphs over the cliched plot and that ending you can spot a mile off, and yet draws you in so deeply that you don’t mind a mite.
Most of all, there are the myth-making performances by the leads; for me, Lau Ching Wan will always be Jie, and Anita Yuen is Ah Min.
There are also the evocative shots of night markets, open-air opera shows, street performances all making for a sense of nostalgia. (I used to watch ‘live’ Chinese opera performances when I was a child.) You also get the feeling you could have been one of the oh-so-ordinary people in the film – since when have a leading man and leading woman been so devoid of celebrity? In their dress, speech and manners, they shine with the intensity of gritty reality.
There are the little subtle gems of quotes, of wisdom and truths, sublimely suffused throughout the scenes – that love in itself is a blessing and the ultimate lack of anything tangible does nothing to diminish it, that one must never doubt oneself and one’s talent (courtesy of Ah Min’s laid-back, sax-playing uncle), that we should be happy in life whatever the circumstances, that in the shadow of death, there is nothing so bad which cannot be overcome, and to live is to be free to feel, love and enjoy, as Ah Min says and portrays so vividly. And the sheer pathos as her optimism and zest for life so tragically crumbles later on.
Of the songs, I used to like the jazz jam session best, especially the sax parts, but now it’s been relegated to second place behind the haunting, beautiful erhu-accompanied number by Fung Bo Bo who, as Ah Min’s mother, implores you, too, to be brave and to hold back your tears as she sings.