on Wang Anyi's Changhen Ge, the multi-award winning novel that was voted
the most influential work of the 90s in China, Everlasting Regret follows
a legendary Shanghai beauty from her glamorous days to her simpler life,
as she struggles to preserve the dignity of her past while surviving the
constant betrayal of her men. She stands tall and proud as she bears witness
to the waves of changes to her city from 1947 to 1981, until one wave finally
Adapted from a Wang Anyi novel of the same Mandarin name, Everlasting Regret
tells the story of Wang Qiyao, from her teens and forty years on, against
the backdrop of a developing Shanghai, China. Directed by Stanley Kwan,
this Sammi Cheng vehicle won an open prize at this year's Venice Film Festival.
And it is
not difficult to see why. Wang Qiyao's story parallels in reverse order,
the tribulations of Shanghai. Focusing on the romances with the many men
in her life, we take a peek at Old Shanghai after World War II, where the
Nationalists were engaged in a power struggle for China. We begin where
Qiyao's winning of the Miss Shanghai award brought her under the wings of
a Nationalist official Li (Hu Jun), and becomes his mistress. It's interesting
to note, that Qiyao had intentionally kissed her innocent life
goodbye, and embarked on what she thought was the best for her, both romantically
and socially in a developing city.
But as the
Nationalists get driven away, so does Li, who has to hide from his enemies.
And it seemed to go downhill for Qiyao from that point on. Her subsequent
romances might be deemed as failures, but it seemed that each brought out
a certain resolve in herself. Daniel Wu plays a commitment-phobic and emotionally
coward Ming, with whom Qiyao has an illegitimate child. Sometimes, you can't
help but wonder at the
unluckiness of Qiyao, as she falls into relationships with men who always
seem to break her heart.
is one man in her life, who had seen her from her teens to her demise, and
that is photographer Mr Cheng (Tony Leung). With his ability to document
events using the camera, he actually performs the function of the narrator.
harbours a love for Qiyao which he is unable to express, and therefore adds
a certain dimension to his platonic relationship with Qiyao and their mutual
Much is said
about the transformation of Sammi Cheng from teen to adult, and to old age.
In my opinion, the transformation isn't obvious, as the make-up team
probably added very subtle touches to physically age Sammi. However, the
costumes between the eras, from Old Shanghai, to pre and post Cultural Revolution
times, are a beauty to marvel at, and helps to flesh out the characters'
roles, just as a soundtrack would do the same.
I felt, was intentionally uneven, given that the relevant eras that were
brought out as settings were of various degrees of importance, and so are
some of Qiyao's romances. Like her final romance with the young lad, it
was relatively short up until the ending, which highlights the lack of emotional
depth that Qiyao had for the man in her life at that point. In case you're
wondering, no, this film doesn't just focus on the boy-girl relationships,
but also touches upon Parental, between Qiyao and her mother,
as well as Qiyao and her own daughter.
is the references to the era the characters are in, reflecting the kind
of society in that particular timeframe. But the main gripe I had was, with
the story running parallel to the development of the city of Shanghai, we
do not see it at all (only
one short still frame towards the end). Consisting of mainly interior shots,
it seemed as if the whole movie was shot on a soundstage and lacked on-location
this film is well-thought out, and should appeal to all Sammi Cheng's fans,
and especially to present an audience the opportunity to see her shine in
a serious dramatic role tailored for her.
There is a making-of documentary which runs about 10 minutes, with interviews
with the director and casts. However, it is not as detailed as one would
imagine for a making-of, and given its length, it should probably have focused
more on the interviews and/or filming process, rather than inserting a number
of clips from the movie itself.
Other than the documentary, a theatrical trailer is
is only the Mandarin track on this disc, with both English and Mandarin
subtitles. The soundtrack is subtle, and Sammi doesn't break into song (which
would of course, ruin the entire setting).
mentioned, the costumes are lush, and the cinematography is brilliant. A
lot of mirrors were also used in the film, as though a metaphor to examine
oneself, and of the changes around, through the looking glass. Presented
in a 16:9 Letterbox aspect
Review by Stefan Shih