I DO / 我願意 / Wǒ Yuànyì [2012 Chinese Film Review]

BY RUBY GEGE (AND HAPPY FIRST ANNIVERSARY, THREECHINGUZ!! THIS BLOG IS OFFICIALLY ONE YEAR OLD!!! JUST WISH TO SAY THAT I LOVE MY FELLOW CHINGUZ AND CO-WRITERS, THE GORGEOUS PALAH CHINGU AND MAERTAI FATMA. AND DEAR READERS, WHOEVER YOU ARE, THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR READING!!)

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Only now I realize how great a joy it is to watch a romantic comedy film once in a while. For a good few hours, I get to laugh, cry, be touched and melt over the romance looming around my laptop. Ouh, such happiness!! I stumbled upon I Do in Youtube and randomly downloaded it. I have to say, I was not disappointed! Not that I’ve ever doubted the gorgeous Li Bingbing’s talent. I should really start collecting more rom-com in my hard disk since they are great stress-relievers. Life sucks. So why not use some cinematic medicines to cure that sucky-diseases? 

U4350P28T3D3560970F326DT20120222074900Set in the metropolitan Beijing, I DO revolves around Tang Weiwei (Li Bingbing), a super successful and super gorgeous and super confident sales director in her early thirties. She has been single since she was 25 years old after her boyfriend left her and had a pregnant best friend who often helped her with blind dates, which never really seemed to work out anyway. Then, she encountered Yang Nianhua (Sun Honglei), a man a few years older than her seemingly of a middle-class background. Even though Nianhua was not as successful and ‘upper’-ish as Weiwei was, they got along well, starting a friendship and courtship at the same time. 

During the courtship, Weiwei’s ex-boyfriend, Wang Yang who left her seven years ago came back to her life, now as a rich jewellery company owner. Weiwei supported Wang Yang for many years while they were dating, through thick and thin, through his unemployments and failures in life. Thus, she was still very bitter and disappointed by his decision to disappear just like that from her life. Wang Yang made his intentions clear that he wanted to resume their romance and pursued Weiwei, asking for her forgiveness.

I find it most surprising that the love-triangle in this movie is so enjoyable to watch. Truthfully, I hate all the cliches one can predict in a romance film. Yet, the three main characters here played their roles with great confidence and ease that watching them navigate their love lives around each other is fascinating. Even though there were tensions here and there, they were never over-dramatic, giving the film a very ‘adult/mature/grown-up’ feel.

Weiwei, for once, is a great character and role model for women. Even though she is independent and successful, she is a realistic person. She wants a husband, a partner in life. Even though she’s comfortable being alone and is a bit sarcastic about the idea of love, she has yet to give up in searching for someone to live her life with. She wants a partner yet she is not too extreme about it. She might be a workaholic sales director but with her love life, she prefers to take it slow and easy.

It’s not important that he has money or not. He has no money, I can earn money. Why do I need too much money? I want a man. Do you understand what a MAN is?” – Tang Weiwei, defending Nianhua when the latter was criticized by Weiwei’s rich ex-boyfriend. (Oh my God, girllll…. I totally get you!!)

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Which made Yang Nianhua the perfect man for her!! Their relationship is my favourite aspect of the film. It is the kind of relationship I want (if ever I have a romantic partner. Oh God, pleaseeeeeeee!!!!!!!) Nianhua is a simple outgoing guy who likes Weiwei for who she is. Despite the lack of interest she showed for him in the beginning of their courtship, he was always there for her. They started of as friends and confidante and slowly, he displayed great reliability and kindness with her. Who does not fall for that?!!! He is a relaxed kind of guy who brings her dinner, has a sense of humour and is very supportive. If that is not perfection, I don’t know what is.

It is also very interesting to see the contrasting dynamics Weiwei shared with her ex-boyfriend and her new romantic partner. She had had an intense long history with Wang Yang and they knew everything about each other. Yet her heart had been crushed by him leaving her without any explaination years ago. When he tried to woo her again, Weiwei was angry at him at first. Only later that she finally showed signs on why she rejected him – she no longer yearned for him. She was disinterested. She wanted nothing more from him. Their time had passed. 

With Nianhua, Weiwei felt easy. As if he had been a very familiar presence in her life. He makes her happy, supports her and sits down to talk to her. He listens to her and most importantly, is a friend to her. I think that is how Weiwei fell for Nianhua despite the presence of the ex-boyfriend (whom she truly loved years ago). 

I Do 我愿意  (2012)  [full length movie-english subtitles] Chinese Movie.mp4.opdownload_002254907

“If you think that I cheated on you, my mistake was that I hid my fortune. How about you? You hide your heart. Your heart is like a thick suit of armor. Needle cannot go in. Water cannot splash in. Reject everything that comes into your heart.” – Nianhua, persuading Weiwei to forgive him once she finds out that he’s actually a filthy rich businessman beneath his laid-back appearance. 

The film had a happy ending, with Nianhua proposing to Weiwei. Wang Yang finally let Weiwei go, wishing her all the happiness in the world. I have to say, though, that scene is the most touching scene in the film. 

“When something is lost, maybe it never comes back. But it makes my heart aching forever.” – Wang Tan, finally accepting that his relationship with Weiwei is over. 

I am beginning to enjoy a lot of modern films from Mainland China after being so absorbed with the films from the 90s and 80s which dealt with more serious socially-conscious elements. Modern Chinese films may seem more glossy and pretty but they also deal with problems I can and will relate to. The issue of successful career-women seems to be on the rise. It cannot be denied that even though marriage is no longer a priority for women, it does not mean that they DON’T want to get married. It’s just that they don’t want to get married to the wrong person. With success and independence, they don’t cling to the presence of men in their lives. People should start expecting to marry a person/individual instead of a wife to manage the household and be the mother of their children.  

When the search of love fails, people marry for practicality. To have a companion. To have children. To start a family. 

“When I was your age, I was afraid that men cheated on me. But now at my age, I am most afraid that I am not useful to men. Life has several stages. After I turn 50, do I still need a man? If I have a son, it’s enough.” – Weiwei’s collegue in her 40s on marriage and partnership.

One thing I kind of dislike about the film is that it has an ‘upper-class’ feel to it. Most characters are filthy rich, successful, have great jobs with impeccable wardrobes and expensive cars. But maybe that is the way it is in the city of Beijing now. I read online that there is a surge of ‘new money’ in the city for the past few years. People are getting richer, the young ones are getting more ambitious. Life is busier, more hectic and unfortunately, more materialistic. It applies to every metropolitan city in the world, including Kuala Lumpur itself. 

On the whole, I DO is an enjoyable romantic-comedy film. The acting is great (like… duhhh, look at the cast. All critically-acclaimed actors, people!) It displays romance in an appropriate dosage and proves that love does not have to be intense and passionate all the time. Love can be kind, understanding, supportive, and reliable. 

I Do 我愿意  (2012)  [full length movie-english subtitles] Chinese Movie.mp4.opdownload_004501057

Awww… these damn feels…

P/S – Ruby Gege wants to return to school so badly. She has been reading a lot in preparation for her PhD proposal. Will she get what she has been hoping for? Will she not? Will she fail? Will she succeed? Can she do what she enjoys in the future? Soon? Pleassseeee? Ruby Gege wishes she can read all day, every day. 

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The Road Home/我的父亲母亲/Wǒ de Fùqin Mǔqin – 2000 Chinese Film Review

by Ruby Gege, who is officially addicted to Zhang Yimou’s films

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I have to say, amongst Mr Zhang’s many works, The Road Home, which I watched not more than three days ago, is my favourite. His style, which weaves the elements of misery, realism and hope so beautifully, speaks to me as an audience. Each of his films seems to have a life of its own. Watching the stories unravel is akin to getting to know a new person in your life. It is not just a film; it is an experience. (I think I sound over-dramatic but who cares?)

The Road Home is a welcoming shift of mood, I have to say, in a string of Mr Zhang’s films that I watched. Most of them always dealt with the bitterness of life and human survival. However, The Road Home, though essentially maintaining those characteristics, is special as it presents its love story in the most hopeful and inspiring manner. And for a brief 30 minutes of my life, I believed in love. Ah, what a sweet moment it was!

Yusheng with the older Zhao Di
Yusheng with the older Zhao Di

The story begins with Luo Yusheng, a city man who returned to his hometown in frosty rural China to arrange for his father’s funeral. He went to see his mother, who insisted that his father’s body be carried from the morgue to the village by foot, a demand other villagers found to be quite demanding as it was winter and not many young people were strong enough to help carry the casket. However, his mother was adamant. The story, then, shifts to the past, decades ago, telling the love story of his parents.

the younger Zhao Di
the younger Zhao Di

His mother, Zhao Di was a girl not more than 18 years old and the most beautiful girl in the village. She spent most of her time taking care of her almost-blind mother. When the village received a new teacher, Luo Changyu, a young active 20 years old man, Zhao Di was instantly attracted to him. Thus, she took several efforts to catch his attention. She would cook her best dishes for the villagers to lunch, potluck-style, for three days in hope of him picking her dishes (which he did not). She made a red cloth requested from the villagers and delivered them to the school in hope of seeing him (but she did not get to). She purposively fetched water from a well near the school in order to catch a glimpse of him, when there was actually a nearer well by her house. Most amazingly, she would wait for him, hiding behind the hills as he walked his students back to their homes, in order to meet him ‘coincidentally’ so that they could smile at each other. They never really talked, mind you. Most of their courtship developed through mutual intrigued glances and smiles. At times, the words they spoke to each other did not exceed five. Yet, it was obvious that they were attracted to each other. 

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Zhao Di and her beloved, the teacher

I love how hopeful, confident and hardworking Zhao Di was as a young girl pursuing the man of her dreams. She really put in the efforts yet never forced him to like her. She would silently stare from afar, hoping for him to feel the same. Thank goodness he did, though. There was this very staunch sincerity in her I find so endearing.

Their love story was cut short when the teacher was summoned back to the city. That day, Zhao Di made him mushroom dumplings, knowing that it was his favourite food. As he was forced to break his promise to visit her house that afternoon, Zhao Di grabbed the bowl of dumplings with her and chase the horse carriage that was taking her beloved back to the city. I’m not sure how many miles she ran, but she ran hard. She ran and she ran, the dumplings in her hand, wanting so desperately for him to taste them. She fell, the carriage left and the bowl was shattered to pieces.

What a heartbreaking scene! *cries*

Zhao Di waited for him to return, as he promised to come back by 27th of a certain month. By this time, her heart was already with the teacher and she lived through her daily lives in emptiness. She improved the conditions of the village school, changing the paper on the window, cleaning the classrom and sat there for a long time, missing him. On the promised date, Zhao Di waited for the teacher to come home in the freezing winter by the street side, her heart leaping at every carriage that passed by the village.

Zhao Di waiting for her beloved amidst the freezing winder
Zhao Di waiting for her beloved amidst the freezing winder

He did not return. Zhao Di ended up falling ill for three days. Upon waking up, she realized that the teacher had returned to her upon receiving news of her condition. The teacher had to leave to the city the next day to complete his punishment and they were separated again for two years. The teacher came back again to serve the village and never left Zhao Di’s side until the day he passed away.

The story then returned to its present time. The love story explained the older Zhao Di’s stubbornness in insisting her late husband’s casket to be carried home. She did not want her late husband to forget the road home, which had been so symbolic of their love as the younger Zhao Di waited for him devotedly, never giving up on him.

*cries, again. Oh, this is so touching!*

During the day of the ceremony, it turned out that more than 100 people came to help the mother and son to carry the casket. They were Zhao Di’s late husband’s former students, who considered it an honour to be able to participate in the ceremony.

I have to say… The Road Home is a far more pleasant memory that I expected it to be. First, I am used to seeing Gong Li in a Zhang Yimou film. Thus, when their relationship ended and Mr Zhang found a new muse in Zhang Ziyi (who played Zhao Di), I was greatly sceptical. I was like… “hmm, can she be at last half as good as Gong Li? Because really, Gong Li is AMAZING!” How wrong I was. She carried the film like a top-notch actress (she was barely 20 while filming this, her debut film). Her character, Zhao Di is the heart and soul of The Road Home. Whilst watching her journey, we cannot but to be absorbed in her giddiness upon seeing her beloved, her happiness and hope, her fears and worries of her love unreturned and her steadfast belief of her beloved’s return to the point that we wish the teacher would come back to her as much as she did.  

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I should have watched it a bit earlier to appreciate the innocence of love portrayed by the characters, which is quite rare amongst the collection of Chinese films I have. It has managed to put a smile on my face each time I think of it, making me think – if I can encounter a love like that, how nice it would be. 

Coming back to real life, of course I won’t! Urbanization is a cruel thing. It takes away the innocence in people. And limit your chances to ever have this kind of experience, people.  

THE PALACE/ 宫锁沉香/Gōng suǒ chénxiāng – 2013 Chinese Film

BY RUBY GEGE WHO IS HAVING HER EXAMS THIS MONTH BUT CAN’T SEEM TO SHAKE OFF HER OBSESSIONS WITH HISTORICAL CHINESE DRAMAS AND MOVIES. ARGH!!!

 The dramatic poster, which I love!

the dramatic poster, which I love!

The_Palace_Chinese_Filmthe sweet poster, which I equally love as well!

REVIEW: 4 DURIANS OUT OF 5 (Because it made me believed in love, for like… 10 minutes)

PLOT SUMMARY

The Palace is essentially a love story set during the reign of Kangxi Emperor of Qing Dynasty between the 13th Prince Yinxiang and a palace maid by the name of Chen Xiang. If you guys remember, quite a number of dramas was based during this era ie Bu Bu Jingxin, Gong I and also Gong II. But I can definitely understand why drama writers seem to be super obsessed with the era of Kangxi Emperor. He sired many princes who would fight and compete for the throne. In the movies and dramas, they always make the princes handsome and extremely charming. Amongst the instrumental princes who contended for the throne was the 4th Prince, the 8th Prince and the 14th Prince. Other princes who didn’t really want to be emperors had to choose sides in order to survive the game.

Liu Li and Chen Xiang
Liu Li and Chen Xiang

This film, however, doesn’t really revolve around the political crisis. It did touch a little, but yeah, only very little. It is mainly about Chen Xiang (Zhou Dongyu), an innocent palace maid who had been best friends with Liu Li (Zhao Li Ying), a vivacious naughty maid as well. As they grew up, the palace maids dreamed of entering the palace ranks by being taken as wives or concubines by the princes. Therefore, they often bribed the eunuchs to provide them information about the location of the princes so that they could meet them ‘coincidentally’ and tried to capture their hearts. Liu Li was one of the more ambitious girls amongst the lot. One night, she threw herself at the 9th Prince, hoping to be accepted by his wife. Little did she know that the 9th Prince was only using her and had no intention to do as such.

lifPkK90Xk3QAt the same time, Liu Li asked Chen Xiang to replace her for a duty or something. Chen Xiang, who covered her face with a handkerchief (cause that’s how the ancient ladies did it, people, to appear more… I don’t know, mysteriously pretty?), had a sweet encountered with the 13th Prince(Chen Xiao). They caught butterflies together in the middle of the night, had some sweet chit-chatting and generally fell in love with each other ever since. However, the 13th Prince had no idea what Chen Xiang looked like and had a clue only in the form of the handkerchief she dropped. A few days later,  a manhunt for that ‘mysterious girl’ was conducted. Liu Li came forward and claimed that she was the one as the handkerchief that Chen Xiang used to cover her face was actually hers.

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Liu Li and the 13th Prince. Chen Xiang was standing behind Liu Li, becoming her personal maid

Thus, the role reversed and the ambitious Liu Li finally got what she wanted. She was trained to become the 13th Prince’s wife and won his affections overnight. Which still baffled me. I mean, even if the ‘mysterious girl’ covered half her face, couldn’t the 13th Prince tell that their facial symmetries were COMPLETELY different? Chen Xiang’s eyes were small and pretty, Liu Li’s eyes were round and bright. But then, what are fictional historical films without the baffling illogical twists… I’ve somehow grown accustomed to expecting no explanation at all arising from unreasonable plots.

Thus, Chen Xiang accepted her fate of the lost opportunity to marry the 13th Prince, whom she began to fall in love with. She became Liu Li’s maid. However, the 13th Prince and her started to get close as the Prince was always bothering her for help in finding out Liu Li’s likes and dislikes. For such purpose, he cooked for Chen Xiang and took her horse-riding. Tell me, people, who wouldn’t fall in love with a man like that?!! If it was me… damn it, I would just scream to the Prince and confessed who I really was.

Misfortune struck the 13th Prince due to his failed rebellion against his Emperor father to save the 4th Prince, whom he admired. He ended up blind and was sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life, to be visited by no one and to live his remaining days in isolation. His soon-to-be wife, Liu Li abandoned him and joined the 9th Prince household – whom she was having a love affair with – as his concubine. Literally, at this time, 13th Prince had no one to rely on. Blind and alone, his world was full of darkness and misery (over-dramatic alert! )

20130807-a6ae21a06d2cc429The only person who cared for him was Chen Xiang. Thus, she tried everything to get into that guarded section of the palace he was locked in. She sought the help of Liu Li, who forced her to walk on burning coals (which she did in the name of love). Upon meeting the Prince, she was again mistaken for Liu Li. I literally banged my head in frustration – you stupid bastard, not again! But then, who could blame the Prince? He barely knew his former fiancee. He barely talked to her yet he fell for her already. Therefore, when a young lady came to visit him in his chamber, he instantly thought that was Liu Li whom he had been waiting for. Chen Xiang did not deny it. Maybe because she wanted to spare him the misery of being abandoned by the woman he loved. To gain continuous access to the Prince’s chamber, Chen Xiang became an experimental guinea pig to the royal physician. She suffered and suffered, all due to her devotion to the 13th Prince, who did not even know who she was. She gave himself to him, she comforted him and became his only hope to live.

201308170309329cb38It was so sweet I almost cried. It would be perfect if only the Prince realized that the lady was actually Chen Xiang and not Liu Li.

As the 4th Prince ascended the throne, the 13th Prince was freed. By that time, he had heard about Liu Li’s affair with the 9th Prince and told Chen Xiang (whom he still thought as Liu Li) to leave him as he supposedly stopped loving her. Chen Xiang did exactly that, thinking that it was over between them.

I don’t fucking get it, Chen Xiang. Just tell him the fucking truth. What is with all this super innocent suffering-loving passive heroines in ancient China? Why do they love this kind of characters so much?

Of course, in the end, the 13th Prince finally learned the truth. Liu Li passed away and Chen Xiang reunited with her lover. The film ended sweetly, like a caramel candy that melts in your mouth.

REVIEW:

I have to be completely honest with you. Despite the grand scale of the film – it being a luscious costume piece – the story is really not about an epic political commentary or even about two different women living in the period of Qing Dynasty. It is, simply, a love story. A simple sweet one, I must say. Our main two characters are simple-minded people who believed in love and naive at hearts. What made the film a little better than your usual romantic piece are the complex supporting characters, especially Liu Li.

The first thing that I love is the innocence of the love story between the 13th Prince and Chen Xiang.

Img378499290You can’t help but to go… awwww. Awwwww. *Cries* and then, awwwww again. The 13th Prince initiated a friendship with Chen Xiang, whom he thought was instrumental in helping him develop a connection with his future wife. Chen Xiang, already in love with him, asked nothing in return. Her feelings for the Prince was pure and selfless. When they were together, you cannot help but to smile. When you see Chen Xiang suffering for the Prince’s sake, you can’t help but to cry along with her. It is just too…. sweet. Arghhhhh!!!!!!!

714236f3jw1e6t97idjofj218g0t0k40The second thing I love is, of course, Liu Li.

20130720091927492She is essentially an evil ungrateful bitch in this film. From a palace maid, she evolved into a prince’s fiancee and a royal concubine. Without her, the film would inevitably walk the dull path. Unlike Chen Xiang who was all innocent and passive, Liu Li was aware of her desires. If she saw an opportunity, she took it. If there was anything she desired, she grabbed it. One misgiving I have about the film was how it displayed an unbalanced portrayal of two types of women in that era. Somehow, I feel that the film stereotypes women who are aggressive as manipulative and cruel whilst the soft–spoken women are kindhearted and sincere.

The third thing I love is the costume, the set designs – basically everything visual in this film. The costumes are crazily detailed and so so so pretty!!!!!! Somehow, the great regal visuals in the film elevated it to more than just a romance film – it gave the film its epic kick!

The fourth thing is undoubtedly….. the 13th Prince.

urlkkkmOMG, each time he appears on the screen, I freaking blush! How can he be so cute and charming and handsome and charismatic at the same time?!!! OMG!! HIS SMILE IS TO DIE FOR!! *swoon* This is not healthy, this is not healthy. Okay, I don’t give a damn. The actor who played him, Chen Xiao is 20 times more good looking in modern attires. He is now officially my favourite mainland actor, second only to Liu Ye.

Him in real life. OMG, how can someone be so good-looking?
Him in real life. OMG, how can someone be so good-looking?

The film is not a great epic historical piece, that’s for sure. However, it is a good entertaining film that would be able to touch your heart in certain scenes. It has a sweet love story as its focal point and the sumptuous designs to accessorize the whole film. Trust me, it will make you delusional and started fantasizing about finding a prince of your own, which will never happen. So, that kind of sucks. But who cares when you have films like this to satisfy your never-ending desires? Hahaha