A story of Hong Kong and a story of a couple in love
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 12/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film won all kinds of awards, including Hong Kong's Movie of the Year 1997 and chosen as one of Time magazine's 1997 ten best films. It's in Mandarin Chinese, with Cantonese and English subtitles and is a very moving romantic comedy about two young people from China who try their very best not to fall in love with each other. Maggie Cheung and Leon Lai are so attractive and personable that its hard to take your eyes off them, and the directing by Peter Chan displays his skill at making subtle emotions clear while still keeping them subtle. The story is set mostly in Hong Kong and then moves to New York and covers a period of ten years. Leon Lai is an immigrant from China who is impressed with Hong Kong. He's thrilled to have a flush toilet in his room and thinks that the best job in the world would be working in McDonalds. Maggie Cheung does her best to not act like a "mainlander" even though she, too, has recently come from the mainland. There are some very funny scenes about English lessons and a full cast of characters set against the Hong Kong background. The story follows these two over the next ten years, including the change in the Hong Kong economy after the stock market crash in 1987. There are ups and downs in their relationship. They part, take different partners, meet again, and then again are separated. The audience sees the gradual maturing of these characters and their internal struggles to stay away from each other and to also try hard to reject their mainland background. But through it all, the audience understands that they are both deeply Chinese. And also in love. I felt the presence of Asia as I watched this film. I'd like to see Hong Kong, and mainland China some day. I don't know if I ever will. But a film like this brings me a little closer. Recommended."
Love in all its painful ramifications
email@example.com | MA, USA | 06/17/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Simply put, this film is one of the greatest films about love and fate. Sensitive, complicated and truthful. It has stirred the deepest layer of my soul. What makes love interesting is that love in real life is invariably tangled up with everything else, ambitions, earthly pursuits, spituality, friendship etc. The two main characters came to Hong Kong for a better future, for themselves and their loved ones. There are lots of obstacles on the way. Like most immigrants, they have no support system, nothing to fall back on. What they face is prejudice. Everything they achieve is through their own determination and hard work. It is under such circumstances that Li Qiao and Li Xiao Jun(btw, their last names, Li, though sounds the same in English, are different in Chinese) are thrown together by fate and falls in love. But they are each presented with his/her own dilemma: Li Xiao Jun has a girlfriend at home. Li Qiao spares no effort at passing herself off as a native Hong Kongese (or Hong Konger? whatever), to be rid of her past in the mainland as much as possible. Having a boyfriend from the mainland would seriously undermine her scheme. In the beginning, she was even ashamed to speak Mandarin, although she was fluent in it. She constantly reminds herself what she is here for, she wants to be rich. She is shamelessly superficial. Or is she? That's the real success of the film. Despite her efforts, she cannot keep her loving, caring nature hidden. Through many trials and tribulations, they demonstrate one thing that is deeply ingrained in the Chinese view of life: what belongs to you in fate will be yours eventually. Maggie Cheung Man-Yu's performence as Li Qiao is nothing short of greatness. She gives her character so much depth that I have to look among the greatest performences in history (such as The Seven Samurai, Jean de Florette or To Live) to find performences so affecting, and so alive. I'll give two examples here. The first is when Li Xiao Jun buys two identical gold chains, one for his girlfriend, one for Li Qiao. Li Qiao stares at him with a totally blank face for quite a few seconds. No words exchanged. Later she complains that he shouldn't have bought the same gift for two women. But let's back up a second. Her expression at the moment was everything but blame. You can tell she was confused, trying to figure out Li Xiao Jun's real feelings, and perhaps trying to supress her own feeling of love and gratitude (keep in mind that Li Xiao Jun was basically her only friend in HK at the moment). So I suspect her later reaction was secondary, perhaps an excuse or even shammed. Her real feeling was that she was moved, if not more. My second example is when she is called in to identify the body of Pao Ge (big brother Pao). When the body is turned over for her to see (the Mickey Mouse tattoo), her expression is unexpected, totally astounding. She begins by a nervous, unsure grin, and it soon merges into a heart-felt, silent weep. Cheugn Man-Yu clearly gives the audience the idea that the character's feelings, whatever they are, are so complex that they are beyond words. Right there, is what I call the greatest few seconds in Chinese film history. The film is worth seeing for that scene alone. LI Qiao's love affairs are complicated. She tries hard to avoid mainlanders. But the ones she get herself involved with are both mainlanders (Pao Ge, coming from Hunan, is even a rung lower than Li Xiao Jun who comes from Wuxi, in the invisible social ladder, formed in the minds of the majority of the snobbish Hong Kongese. I probably have run out of space to discuss her relationship with Pao Ge and more--the whole film has 5 different relationships in it. But people are constantly torn between the old and the new, the spiritual and the material. Finally another reason I love this film is that it is a tribute to the greatest pop singer in Chinese history, Teresa Teng (Deng Li Jun). The original Chinese title Tian Mi Mi (Sweet, Honey Sweet)is the title of the song repeated sung in this film. Whatever they say in the film, Teresa Teng's influence on the Chinese speaking world has been unsurpassed. She single-handedly lifted Chinese pop music to a higher level. She was more important to the Chinese pop music than Beatles to the Western pop music.Feel sorry for Western audiences, the one I watched, (don't know if it's the same as the one listed here), has a English subtitle and is often bad, misleading and selectively done. It misses much of the subtlty and humor. For example, when Li Xiao Jun calls her girlfriend, he says "I love you", she answers with soemthing to the effect of "you give me goose bumps" or "why so serious" (The Chinese do not use the word "love" nearly as much as Westerners), Li said it perhaps out of quilt(for his love affair with Li Qiao), perhaps is trying to show her that he is Westernized, perhaps both. It is a subtle point in the movie. And when Li Xiao Jun and Li Qiao first met in the MaDonald's, she tries to explain to him why he must learn Cantonese or English. It's a funny scene. Li Xiao Jun's Cantonese is not good enough to understand her and she is unwilling to use mandarin alone for fear of lowering herself in his eyes, so what she does is that she says one sentence in mandarin and the next in Cantonese, alternatively. Sorry, English Speakers. But in any case, if you have not seen this film, make it a priority of your life."
A Different Love Tale of the 90's
Matthew M. Yau | San Francisco, CA | 02/28/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Comrades, Almost a Love Story has a very different Chinese title - Sweet as Honey. Sweet as Honey is actually a all-time favorite single performed by the now-deceased popstar Teresa Teng back in the 70's. A Chinese saying "you must know Teresa Teng if you're from mainland". The two main characters in the film, Li Xiao Jun (Leon Lai) and Li Ciao (Maggie Cheung) were immigrants from mainland China who arrived in Hong Kong in 1986. The "love story" was about these two young hearts trying to their best effort not falling in love with each other. Li Xiao Jun was an innocent man from Tianjian (northern China) who took shelter at his aunt Rose's subleased apartment. Jun was excited about having his own toilet and was amazed at the night lives led by Hong Kong locals. Should he know that almost half of his housemates practiced prostitution, he would have judged differently. Jun wrestled with blending in the Hong Kong lifestyle - which was well depicted and authentic. He had trouble speaking and understanding Cantonese, the dialect most common-spoken at the former British colony. His made himself a fool at McDonald's and met Li Ciao, who happened to immigrated to Hong Kong from Guangzhou. Li Ciao lived out a typical southern mainlander back in the 80's: strong-willed, ambitious, and money oriented. She tried to dress like, act like, talk like, and interact like a Hong Kong local. In fact, she denied herself as being the "same" as Li Xiao Jun, who came from the mainland. Li Ciao knew she purpose of coming to Hong Kong was not to meet someone like Li Xiao Jun, who also happened to come from mainland and spoke no English and would not make every opportunity in climbing the ceiling in the fast-paced, rampaging city. Li Ciao searched for true love, yet strived arduously not to fall in love with Li Xiao Jun.The couple went through separation and reunion over 10 years, from Hong Kong to New York City....and finally...one day hearing the news about Teresa Teng's death...Teresa Teng being woven into this love story brought out the lives of many mainlanders. Comrades, Almost a Love Story is, after all, so much a story about Jun and Ciao falling in love, not rather a salute to the once-popular diva Terea Teng whose songs had influenced and touched many Chinese people..."
Comrade - almost a love story
Wu Yuan | 03/20/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Two young people came from Mainland China to Hong Kong to seek their dreams. Li Xiaojun thought of nothing but to earn enough money so he could bring her girlfriend to Hong Kong. Li Qiao dreamed of being rich and becoming a Hong Kong people. They met and fell into love in the foreign city, but their different goals separated them till they reunited in New York 10 years later since they came to Hong Kong.Just like the soft theme song by Teresa Teng, the movie touches you so unnoticeably yet so deeply. I was obsessed every time I watched the movie, but somehow I just could not find out why the movie is this touching. Li Xiaojun and Li Qiao were not any noble people. At first Li Qiao tried to hide the fact that she was from Mainland and exploited Li Xiaojun in various ways. The origin of their love was probably their lonely and helpless feelings as they were struggling for their dreams in the harsh foreign society. The only thing they shared was their fondness of Teresa Teng's songs, which was regarded as a norm for the Mainland people. When they met in the street of New York on the day of Teresa Teng's death, all the feelings came to me that I could hardly breath. It is so realistic, material, instinctive, unpretentious, no way similar to the butterfly's love or Romeo and Juliet, but it moved me so much more in the end..."
"You Must Know Teresa Teng If You're From Mainland" ~ Swee
Brian E. Erland | Brea, CA - USA | 08/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Note: Mandarian Chinese with English subtitles.
This is a really sweet, tender tale of two strangers, Li Xiao Jun (Leon Lai) and Li Ciao (Maggie Cheung) from mainland China who have recently arrived in Hong Kong in search of a better life. They meet at a McDonald's Restaurant and their mutual attraction is subdued, but immediate. They soon become good friends, comrades as you would say on the mainland and become inseparable. However Li Xiao has a fiancee back home and is unable to express his true feelings towards Li Ciao. Conversely Li Ciao is also falling in love with Li Xiao but tries to ignore the yearnings of her heart because he doesn't appear to be as motivated towards wealth and success as she is.
And so they play the game of being comrades. As they strive towards their individual goals the emotional tie between them strengthens. Soon they are working together, relaxing together and sleeping together, all the while acknowledging nothing more than a deepening bond of friendship. Some of their tenderest moments together are spent listening to the records of Teresa Teng, a popular female singer from Taiwan. The beautiful voice and melancholy ballads of Ms. Teng seem to express in musical form their unspoken feelings of love.
Unable to take their relationship to the next level, they part company. Li Xiao sends for his fiancee and is soon married. Soon after Li Ciao moves to New York with Pao, a rich, older man.
However as the years slowly pass they both grow increasingly unhappy with their romantic choices and long to be together again. Li Xiao eventually divorces and Pao is killed, victim of a street mugging. Will the two be able to find each other again after ten years apart? In an unexpected turn of events it's the music of Teresa Teng that reunites the two once again.
You couldn't ask for two more charming, attractive people than Leon Lai and Maggie Cheung. The chemistry between them is amazing. The subtitles move quickly and because of their placement on the screen they're at times difficult to read. However this is a love story not to be missed, so if you have to hit the backup button a couple of times to catch want they're saying do it. It's well worth the effort."