The Allure of Tears 傾城之淚
Contemporary love anthology
2011, colour, 2.35:1, 110 mins
Directed by Barbara Wong (黃真真)
By Derek Elley
Wed, 11 July 2012, 09:15 AM (HKT)
Embarrassingly arch collection of love stories that slightly improves later on. Asian events at best.
China, the present day. I: The First Teardrop (第一滴淚). A young woman, nicknamed Awesome Girl 給力妹 (Zhou Dongyu), returns to a Shanghai private hospital for treatment for leukaemia. There she meets fellow patient You Le (Aarif Lee), a spoiled kid from a rich family, who has a brain tumour but is resisting his parents' insistence on him having an operation. The two fall in love, and look forward to dying together. But then Awesome Girl tells You Le she is going to Beijing, where a compatible bone-marrow donor has been found. II: The Second Teardrop (第二滴淚). The Shanghai music school in which Awesome Girl once studied piano is faced with foreclosure by its bank, unless it can raise RMB3 million (US$470,000) in the next two months. The school head (Dennis Chan) asks former pupil Ding Dake (Richie Ren) to persuade star violinist Yang Lin (Gigi Leung), for whom he always had a secret passion, to hold a comeback concert to raise funds. Dake discovers the reason Yang Lin retired is because she is partially deaf from an accident on stage. She finally agrees to help, but then more obstacles emerge towards putting on the concert. III: The Third Teardrop (第三滴淚). In the queue for Yang Lin's autograph after the concert is a young woman, Zhang Cai (Joe Chen), who is about to receive a surprise from a young man, Chen Sheng (Shawn Dou). The two first met in the rain in a town in Jiangsu province, where she was a street-seller. After moving in together, and trying to save money to realise a shared dream, they lost everything when Chen Sheng crashed his work van. Zhang Cai gave him three years to sort his life out, so he took the coach to Shanghai in search of a career.
Just when she seemed to have finally got all her ducks in the right order with the classy rom-com Perfect Wedding 抱抱俏佳人 (2010), everything comes crashing down again in Hong Kong director Barbara WONG 黃真真's career with The Allure of Tears 傾城之淚 (2011). Wong's first film in China and with Mainland financing, this anthology of three love stories — only tangentially connected — is so utterly inept at a script level for most of its length that it almost seems as if Wong is making a parody of Asian melodrama conventions. (Alas, she is not.) After two squirmingly arch episodes, things improve at the 70-minute mark with the final segment — a standard love story lifted by the chemistry between Taiwanese singer-presenter-TV actress Joe CHEN 陳喬恩 and Chinese-Canadian Shawn DOU 竇驍 — but hardly enough to justify the whole movie's almost two-hour running-time.
Death — as well as some unspeakable dialogue — hangs heavy over the first tale, a meet-cute romance between two young cancer patients in a Shanghai private hospital. Wong and her co-writers (including her regular partner, actor-producer Lawrence CHENG 鄭丹瑞) recycle every cliche of the genre without any true emotion. The 40-minute segment is watchable only for young Mainland actress ZHOU Dongyu 周冬雨 (Under the Hawthorn Tree 山楂樹之戀 (2010)), whose naive freshness is the only genuine thing on screen; Hong Kong actor-singer Aarif LEE 李治廷, who shot to screen fame with Echoes of the Rainbow 歲月神偷 (2009), simply goes through the charm motions as a spoiled rich kid.
Things don't get any better in the 30-minute central segment, a love story-cum-putting on a concert tale with Hong Kong's Gigi LEUNG 梁詠琪 getting the unspeakable lines this time round, as a hearing-impaired violinist. Taiwan's Richie REN 任賢齊, in goofy glasses, looks puzzled, while the rest of the mixed Hong Kong, Mainland and Taiwanese cast look equally out of place as classical musicians. The 35-minute closing tale benefits from a much more realist tone, a likeable performance by the smiley Dou (Zhou's co-star in Hawthorn Tree) and Chen's no-nonsense, very Taiwanese playing of his partner.
After the clean, polished surfaces of the first two stories, the widescreen photography by Taiwan fashion-musicvideo photographer Fisher YU 余靜萍 (Ming Ming 明明 (2006), In Case of Love 街角的小王子 (2010)) switches style for the final part, with much more handheld work and more saturated colours. The abrupt change seems symptomatic of the whole project's confusion.
ContactSales: Pegasus Motion Pictures, Hong Kong (email@example.com)
Theatrical release: China, 22 Dec 2011.
Presented by Fujian He Ye Film Distribution (CN), Cayle Movie & Video Communication (CN), Shanghai Seven Film Media (CN). Executive producers: Grace Song, Daniel Fung. Producers: Daniel Fung, Lawrence Cheng.
Script: Lawrence Cheng, Barbara Wong, Silver Hau, Skipper Cheng. Photography: Fisher Yu. Editing: Kwong Chi-leung, Wong Hoi. Music: Chiu Tsang-hei. Violin solos: Yao Jue. Art direction: Tony Yu. Styling: Bruce Yu. Costume design: Tina Fu. Sound: He Yuan, Johnny Liu. Musical consultant (for Part 2): Yao Jue.
Cast: I: Zhou Dongyu (Awesome Girl/Power Girl), Aarif Lee (You Le), Dennis Chan (music school head), Yang Jiahua, Guo Yujia, Li Shangxuan, Liu Yuqi, Zhou Shaodong, Wu Yufang, Cao Shiping, Xu Caigang, Xu Shouqing, Hu Jiande, Guo Qiang, Dong Shuai, Peng Guang, Wang Tao, Li Gongjian. II: Gigi Leung (Yang Lin), Richie Ren (Ding Dake), Dennis Chan (music school head), Lawrence Cheng (Xiao Dan, the clarinettist), Jung Hsiang (Lin Yifeng, the timpanist), Li Baoer (Chen Lisheng, the French horn player), Yao Jue (herself, the violinist), Yang Xiaodan (Lu Hua, the flautist), Clara Lu, Gus, Yang Zhiying, Sun Lufei, Long De, Xia Yongxiang, Li Ruimin, Zhu Feng, Yuan Shuocheng, Li Qiang, Wu Yongjin, Duan Qianru, A Ya, Wang Yaqin, Zhang Wenjun. III: Joe Chen (Zhang Cai), Shawn Dou (Chen Sheng), Cheng Xuming, Yan Tinghu, Li Maolin, Qin Xiubin, Yu Yuancheng, Zhang Fa, Guo Xiang, Guo Yiqun, Yu Kuai, Guo Xuguang, Li Wenlong.