Wonderful and Heartwrenching at the same time
Michael Price | Minneapolis, MN | 04/21/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am not going to rave about the sets, or the acting, or the quality of the production. They were all very good. The film is narrated intermittently by the cellist and his fiance, in the form of letters to each other while they are apart at different points in the movie, and I really thought this added to the somber, but also romantic, moodThe background musical scores are beautiful, sometimes touching, often tragic.This film was absolutely charming, and at the same time, terribly depressing, in a romantic sort of way. A young male cellist meets a woman whom he is supposed to marry, and shortly after they first meet, they attend a Chinese Opera. The lead of the opera is a handsome young man who is srictly "controlled" by a somewhat older rich man, his lover. Both the cellist and his fiance fall in love with the Opera star, and eventually, the two younger men briefly touch upon their love for each other. The fiance discovers this, then the older rich guy does too... and then everyone knows.
From there, it gets more and more depressing. I won't divulge the details of the second half, but especially depressing is the fate of the ex-opera star as he desperately attempts to reunite with the cellist. In the end, you are taught a lesson about never missing an opportunity for true love.... Buy this movie, and watch it with a close friend or someone you love. And then hold him or her tight and never let go."
Slow pace, but a grand romantic heart
Libretio | 05/15/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
FLEEING BY NIGHT
(China/Taiwan - 2000)
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Theatrical soundtrack: Dolby Digital
Tianjin, the late 1930's: A young cellist (Huang Lei) returns home from studies abroad and makes preparations to marry his childhood sweetheart (Rene Liu Re-ying), the daughter of a wealthy businessman. But the relationship is soured when Huang meets and falls in love with a male Chinese opera singer (Yin Chao-te) who is being pimped by his mentor to a local gangster (Tai Li-jen). Tragedy ensues.
Several key personnel from CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON were reunited for this Chinese/Taiwanese co-production, including co-director Hsu Li-kong (longtime associate of director Tsai Ming-liang) and co-writer Wang Hui-ling. And while it's a pleasant surprise to find a government-sanctioned Chinese film addressing a number of previously taboo subjects (corruption and hypocrisy in high places, gay romance, etc.), the results are decidedly mixed. Set against the backdrop of sweeping changes which transformed Chinese society during the first half of the 20th century, FLEEING BY NIGHT invites predictable comparisons with Chen Kaige's superior FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE, but the resemblance is superficial at best.
Directors Hsu and Yin Chi employ the trappings of traditional Chinese melodrama - villainous gangsters, thwarted love, enduring loyalty, lifelong tragedy, etc. - though the film relies for much of its dramatic impact on a measured accumulation of intimate details, an approach which reaps dividends in the long run, despite the film's unsatisfying narrative structure. Huang's doomed relationship with Liu is allowed to dominate proceedings for a little longer than necessary, and the subsequent romance between Huang and Lin is thwarted at every turn, frustrating audience expectations and leading some critics to question the film's sexual politics. In fact, despite a lush orchestral score by Chris Babida, the movie lacks a formal visual grace, thanks to production design (by Sung Chun) which fails to generate an appropriate period ambience, and non-stylized cinematography by Tsai Cheng-hui (SWEET DEGENERATION, MURMUR OF YOUTH).
More a tragedy than a love story, the narrative builds to a genuinely heartbreaking conclusion: Few will be unmoved by a blunt, devastating sequence at the end of the movie in which Huang and Yin are 'reunited' after many years apart, all the more heartbreaking for the understated manner in which it is staged. Huang (LIFE ON A STRING, THE PHANTOM LOVER) makes an attractive and sympathetic protagonist, while Yin smoulders intensely in a difficult role, and Liu (who made an impressive debut five years earlier in the title role of SIAO YU) is quietly effective as the understanding wallflower laid low by her fiancee's deceit. Equally memorable is Tai, playing the nominal 'villain' as a sympathetic character hidebound by traditions and his place within Chinese society. Ultimately, some viewers will reject the film's deliberate pacing, while others will embrace its quiet dignity and grand romantic heart.
You Will Thank Yourself for Seeing This Film!
torrid_wind? | Brooklyn, NY, United States | 10/15/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a mesmorizing, story of a man who returns home to China to marry but is enthralled by the performance of a male opera star; a lyrically told story of two intersecting love triangles. Flawless!"
An intelligent surprise
torrid_wind? | 03/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I viewed this film based on the genre and knowing nothing about it and was very pleasantly surprised. Good acting, excellent production values and melodramatic in a good way (the music swells at poignant moments but, hey, the film takes place in the '30's). Not a cheesy moment...a film you can like and respect yourself in the morning. Definitely recommended."