ContactSales: C&M Film Workshop (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: China, 31 Mar 2012.
Presented by Star Union Skykee (Beijing) Film & Media Advertisement (CN), Hefei Radio & TV Investment (CN), Shaoxing Sheng Xia Film & TV Cultural Investment (CN), Anhui Golden Bull Film & TV Investment (CN), Shenzhen Zhishang Film & TV Investment (CN). Produced by Star Union Skykee (Beijing) Film & Media Advertisement (CN), Anhui Golden Bull Film & TV Investment (CN). Executive producers: Liang Ting, Wang Jie, Xia Huajun, Wu Daorong, Li Junhao. Produced by Liang Ting, Manfred Wong.
Script: Manfred Wong, Yang Meiyuan. Photography: Shu Chou, Michael Tsui. Editing: Shiney Yip, Derek Hui. Music: Lowell Lo. Art direction: Lau Sai-wan. Costume design: Zhang Ke. Styling: Stanley Cheung. Sound: Feng Jun, Zhang Bin, Kinson Tsang. Executive director: Cub Chin.
Cast: Ruby Lin (Su Er), Kara Hui (Madame Zhen), Monica Mok (Xu Shi), Anna Kay (He Chujun), Xing Minshan (Wang Zhiyuan, the councillor), Michael Tong (Shen Xuanbai, Xu Shi's husband), Jing Gangshan (Cheng Nan, Xu Shi's lover), Daniel Chan (Shen Xuanqing, Su Er's husband), Han Zhi (Ding Dashan), Harashima Daichi (Shen Ling, Shen Xuanbai's son), Xiao Yuzhen (Shen Yi, Su Er's daughter), Huang Yiyang (Shen He, Su Er's son), Cai Jifang (village elder Yuan), Dong Jilai (village elder Huang), Chen Jinhui (village elder Zhang), Liu Wei's (Cheng Nan's wife), Cheng Jiaji (old Jiang), Huang Ying (his wife), Yu Xiaodong (Wu Zuo).
Blood Stained Shoes 繡花鞋
Period ghost story
2012, colour, 2.35:1, 84 mins
Directed by Raymond Yip (葉偉民)
By Derek Elley
Fri, 18 May 2012, 15:00 PM (HKT)
So-so village ghost story with an interesting cast and curious structure. Asian and genre events.
Yuan village, southern China, soon after the end of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-45). Twenty-year-old He Chujun (Anna Kay), recently graduated from teacher's training college in Shanghai, returns to her native village, where some women are still waiting for their men to return. Among them are Su Er (Ruby Lin), who has two young children and has supported herself the past three years through embroidery, and her sister-in-law by marriage, Xu Shi (Monica Mok), who has been running her husband's wine-making business in his absence and has a teenage son, Shen Ling (Harashima Daichi). Su Er is married to Shen Xuanqing (Daniel Chan) and Xu Shi to his brother, Shen Xuanbai (Michael Tong). Only Xuanbai comes home at present, but missing a leg; and his war experience has turned him impotent. Councillor Wang Zhiyuan (Xing Minshan) keeps Su Er's hopes up by saying he's heard Xuanqing will be home soon. By the time of the Ghost Festival, in late summer, Xuanqing has still not appeared. Wang still mourns his wife Xiao Yin, who died in labour 15 years ago and whose death was blamed on the "birth devil" by the village's conservative elder, Madame Zhen (Kara Hui). Chujun is due to return the next day to Shanghai to visit her parents, and also take Shen Ling to college there. On the night of the festival, while Xuanbai and Xu Shi are getting drunk, Su Er is taken out of town by rickshaw runner Ding Dashan (Han Zhi) to deliver some embroidered shoes. Dashan is later found dead, his head bashed in, and Su Er is sentenced to drowning by the village's elders, egged on by Madame Zhen. Soon afterwards, Su Er's ghostly presence stalks the village and people start dying.
Made by the same Hong Kong duo of producer-writer Manfred WONG 文雋 and director Raymond YIP 葉偉民 responsible for the very likeable Mainland road movie Lost on Journey 人在囧途 (2010) and the good-looking but rather thin biopic Bruce Lee My Brother 李小龍 (2010), Blood Stained Shoes 繡花鞋 (2012) is a so-so smalltown ghost story that's more interesting for its female cast and its curious structure than anything else. Set just after the Sino-Japanese war, in a Suzhou-like village in which the women are waiting for their men to come back alive, the movie pairs Taiwanese TV drama queen Ruby LIN 林心如 (best known for goodie roles) with Beijing-born, Australian-raised actress-model Monica MOK 莫小棋 (better known for sexy roles, as in Ocean Flame 一半海水一半火焰 (2008) and Mural 畫壁 (2011)). Though top-billed Lin, 36, is the far more experienced actress, it's actually Mok who makes a stronger impression in a less simpering part, as a wife who's run her husband's wine-making business while he's been fighting the Japanese and now finds he's impotent after returning home.
Between Lin and Mok is Hong Kong veteran Kara HUI 惠英紅, thundering away as the village's evil conservative spinster and injecting some welcome life into the movie. On the sidelines is young Mainland model-singer Anna KAY 葉熙祺 in her big-screen debut, who's very cute but rather bland as the story's narrator.
Running a mere 77 minutes (excluding the leisurely end credits), the film spends half of that in what looks like just the set-up for a story of haunting by an aggrieved ghost. In fact, it's the most interesting part of the film, detailing the smalltown characters, the changing lives of its women and shifting family ties. The ghostly section of the film, with guilty parties dropping dead like flies, is relatively brief and not particularly scary — Yip brought in fellow Hong Konger Cub CHIN 錢江漢, who's directed several ghost movies, as an executive director — before the film then gradually morphs into a whodunit and whydunit, with a coda set sometime later.
Few of the men measure up to the women in personality, with the best playing coming from XING Minshan 邢岷山 as a local councillor burying a longtime grief. Technically, the film is thoroughly professional, with good art direction by LAU Sai-wan 劉世運 (stylist on East Wind Rain 東風雨 (2010)), attractive photography by Taiwan's Shu CHOU 周書豪 (The Piano in a Factory 鋼的琴 (2010)) and Hong Kong's Michael TSUI 徐少江 (Lost on Journey), and strong, unshowy costume design. Overall, Blood Stained Shoes is watchable but could have been considerably better, given the assembled talent and characters, with a stronger script. The Chinese title means Flower Embroidered Shoe(s).