To see that china remains a dominant world force after the founding of the republic by dr. Sun yat-sen the patriotic charlie soong send his three daughters to america for their education. The sisters return to china marks ... more »the beginning of their tumultuous lives. Studio: Tai Seng Entertainment Release Date: 01/23/2001 Starring: Michelle Yeoh Vivian Wu Run time: 135 minutes Rating: Nr Director: Mabel Cheung« less
A History Lesson Nicely Packaged - Is it Simulacra?
Miguel B. Llora | Bay Point, California USA | 11/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Provocative and moving are few of the words that come to mind after having viewed this movie. As a short synopsis, The Soong sisters are a troika of daughters of Charlie Soong. Soong created and nurtured a political dynasty in China. The Dynasty, at least as far as the movie is concerned is nothing short of having reached the highest levels of power. As mentioned previously, this movie follows the lives of the three Soong sisters. Educated in America they returned to China to sit and live alongside arguably three of the most influential personalities of transitional China. First, Ai-ling marries a powerful businessman. Second, Ching-ling marries Sun Yat-sen, the revolutionary founder of modern China. Third, May-ling marries the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, China's leader during World War II and modern Taiwan's founder. Undoubtedly, all three women exert a profound influence on China. In this gripping historical "docudrama" we move away from the vogue practice of looking at "little people" and focus, big-time, on the big people - and it does not get any bigger than these folks.
I have to admit to having approached this film with some doubts. I hate to admit this too but what really drew me to the movie (and Yes, I did change my mind about it after having watched it - it is deep) was the eye-candy: Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, and Vivian Wu are not difficult to stare at - even for 2 and half hours. However, as I got into the story - not to mention Maggie Cheung's stunning performance as Madam Sun - I was instantly converted.
As a novice in Asian Studies - I will need to dig deeper as I am not familiar with the factual accounts and influence of the Soong Sisters. I can neither verify nor argue the veracity of the movie - but I would certainly urge all those interested in the topic to watch it. Inevitably, the movie will be compared to Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" where there is an attempt to bring to life the narrative of Qing Emperor Pu Yi. The link is Vivian Wu. As far as the movie is concerned - Sun is the great conciliator while Chang Kai Shek is the great destroyer. Maggie Cheung is amazing as Ching-Ling wife of Sun Yat Sen. She had the hot hand and run with it. The perfunctory close-ups of Cheung show she is only getting better with age. She is still the Cheung of such classics as "Days of Being Wild" and "As Tears Go By." Vivian Wu - well the jury is still out on that one. I will need to see some actual shots of Madame Chiang to see how well she did. Nonetheless, it was not difficult to stay riveted to the screen with her and Michelle Yeoh around.
The one main criticism is that the story had a weak ending. Moving to the standard documentary rehash - well, in my humble opinion, it could have closed better. It deserved a better ending. As a tool for pedagogy, "The Soon Sisters" ranks along side such classics as "The Last Emperor" and "To Live." Bravo!
A Dose of History Sumptuously Served - with reservations
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 06/30/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"THE SOONG SISTERS is a visually stunning recounting of the turns of events that changed China from a land of Dynasties to a nation of multiple personalities: the Nationalist Party, the Revolutionists, and the Communist Party. As such it fills in many bits of political and social history that by and large have gone unnoticed by the West. Charlie Soong (having been educated in America) has three special daughters whom he loves so much that he sends them to America for schooling at Wellesley to prepare for what he envisions as a New China. The daughters return to China as young women, marry men who are destined to become important political leaders, and the changes the resulting schism of a Chinese family parallels the cultural transformation of one of the oldest civilizations on the planet. Director Mabel Cheung has a keen eye for vistas of Oriental splendor, capturing the young girls at play in gardens, marrying in elegantly beautiful ceremonies, joining the 'imported' western culture with the elegance of the Chinese culture in the arts, a fine sense of the seasons (though when it rains in China apparently one cannot hear a normal conversation!), and even the requisite battle scenes that of course must accompany this period of transition (internal battles as well as fighting the invading Japanese army). For the most part she draws vivid performances from Jiang Wan (a true mixture of East and West) as Charlie Soong, Michelle Yeoh, Vivian Wu and Maggie Cheung as the three Soong sisters, and Winston Chao as Sun Yat-Sen and Kuo Chiu Wa as Chiang Kai-Shek, two of their husbands. The drawbacks in this very long movie are the editing (scenes literally bounce off each other in a most distracting non-fusion), sound track (treacly Western sentimentalist gush coupled with the elegance of old Chinese music on ancient instruments), and the lack of passion in the relationships of the people. Perhaps this is her style: perhaps it is a way of avoiding commitment to any one of the political parties addressed. Given these reservations, if you are in the mood for eye candy and the wonder of history, try this film in the comfort of your home."
Stunning non-fiction epic
Gengie | Malaysia | 06/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This stunning non-fiction epic is filled with cinematic splendour. Base on accounts of the social upheavals in various points and eras in Chinese history, it is filled with gorgeous cinematography, great score by Kitaro and great cast. Historically accurate if not, a few minor point may be incorrect, but as a whole, it shows you the big picture.With some of the best stars there is from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Maggie Cheung, Michelle Khan and Vivian Wu portrayal as the three sister are excellent. But the most powerful in performance are from the men. Jiang Wen (outspoken Charlie Soong) also a favourite actor of mine, Winston Chou (charismatic Sun Yatsen) and Kuo Chiuwu (commanding Chiang Kaishek) are powerful and haunting.Despite an 18 minute footage cut from the original, still its a great direction from Mabel Cheung. As a loyal fan of great movies from China, in likes of directors Yimou, Kaige, XieFei and HePing, Soong Sisters to me will be one of my personal favourite masterpiece, one of the few from Hong Kong.Genghiz"
takerukun | Norcross, GA United States | 03/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a excellent movie, without Michelle's back kick. Don't expect any action in this movie. You don't need it. This is a non-fiction story, about three sisters whose married with the three men who impacted greatly onto the modern Chinese history. Very good history lesson, described the confusing time in China througout 2 World Wars. You may want to review basic modern Chinese history before watching this movie. Sometimes it gets confusing. Maggie is fantastic, as well as Michelle. She can act wonderfully without flipping and kicking. This is a MUST SEE movie for Michelle's fun. It will open up your eyes."
4* if you know the history, 3* if you don't.
Patricia McCahey | Noosa, Australia | 01/16/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film covers a period in Chinese history when an incredible amount was going on. If you're not familiar with key Chinese names and events in the first half of the 20th century, bone up first or you'll miss the impact of the Soongs' story. It would be extremely difficult for a single film--even a long one like this--to do justice to their lives while at the same time adequately portraying the intricately layered events they were caught up in. It bounces through events that cry out for greater depth. Maybe it would have been better to attempt bite sized portions and make three or four films from the fascinating material. Nevertheless, it's well worth seeing for the same reason one might scan the Reader's Digest version of Tolstoy's War and Peace. The acting is good in the somewhat formal Chinese style, there is great attention to historical detail in the sets and costumes and it's beautiful to look at. The only complaint I'd make is the subtitles are full of spelling and other errors."