Friday, March 31, 2006

The Soong Sisters and other Asian movies

been a while..
Firstly, spring is coming, the forum, Fragments, has just been moved to another place.
A special place has been made for cinema discussions and particularly Asian cinema. Hopefully, it will be more active...

movies seen recently :

The Soong Sisters by Mabel Cheung, 1997... okay but could have been better
The movie is based on the true story of the three Soong sisters : Ai-ling (Michelle Yeoh), the eldest sister who married one of the richest Chinese men of the time, H. H. Kung (Finance Minister under Chiang Kai-shek power), Ching-ling (Maggie Cheung), Sun Yat-sen's wife, and May-ling (Vivian Wu), the youngest and Chiang Kai-shek's wife.
The Soong family was one the most influential and powerful families in 20th Chinese history. Their father (Jiang Wen) was Charlie Soong, who made a fortune by selling Bibles in China. The last of the three sisters, May-ling died in 2004 at the age of 105 in New York. Despite that they had also three brothers, none of them are mentioned in the movie at all.

The movie tells the sisters' lives from their childhood (beginning of the 20th century), through the years of the Republic of China, from the revolution and the founding of the Republic of China in 1911 by Sun Yat-sen, the northern expedition in 1927, the sino-japanese war and the civil war between nationalists and communists. It focuses on their love and family relationships, their different political ideas (although not too heavily developped....) while the historical changing of China still remains in the backround.
They are presented as the future women of the New China : One loved money (Ai-ling), and one loved her country, (Ching-ling, surnamed as the Mother of China, and was the First Lady), one loved power (May-ling, the ambassador for China and then Taiwan to the Western world).

I personnally thought this historical epic, which lasts over 2 hours (some scenes were cut, and the movie was shot in Mainland China at the time of the handover of Hong Kong to the PRC), could have been better, but it's interesting to see at least for the history. However the cast gathered some of the most known movie personalities (Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh, Vivian Wu, Jiang Wen as the father, Winston Chao as Sun Yat-Sen, Wu Hsing-Kuo as Chiang Kai-Shek) and everyone played very well. The set is somptuously well done, and the direction is classic, but the music is too present and too dramatic, and overall the film is a bit too "academic".

Others :
Taga tameni by Taro Hyugaji, 2005... only worth for Tadanobu Asano
Cocktail by Herman Yau, 2006... not great, watchable though
The Art of Fighting by by Shin Han Sol (first feature film), 2005... (basically a young guy who's being constantly bullied by stupid boys at school, meets an odd elder, who excels in the art of fighting, wants to learn from him...). Nothing really outstanding or different from any other movies of this genre (comedy/action although no so much action, a bit of fighting mainly), but it was okay, and the cast played well : Baek Yoon Shik (Save the Green Planet, President's Last Bang) and Jae Hee (3-Iron).



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