Publicity Stills of "Everlasting Regret"
(Courtesy from Shaw)

Genre: Drama
Director: Stanley Kwan
Starring: Sammi Cheng, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Hu Jun, Daniel Wu, Huang Jue,
RunTime: 1 hr 55 mins
Released By: Shaw & Festive Films
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 6 October 2005

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Based 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 overwhelms her.

Movie Review:

A peek at Golden Horse winning director, Stanley Kwan’s controversial career and the hype about Hong Kong’s comedic romance queen, Sammi Cheng turning all-serious may already triggers one to watch this movie. Touted as the screen adaptation of the best selling novel which was said to have done much in reviving the Shanghai nostalgia styles and also the first film, in almost a decades, that Stanley Kwan had deviated from his personal sexual orientation, adds on to the list of reasons that classify this as a “must-watch”. And so that was what most of us thought.

In spite of the inspiring Wang Anyi’s original novel of the same name, the scriptwriters have fizzled another success on screen. Instead of augmenting on the pentagon romance of legendary beauty Wang Qiyao amidst the rapid changes occurs to Shanghai, Stanley Kwan decided to let the transition of Shanghai from the 40s to the early 80s took center stage. The vision is challenging but the end product is unsatisfactory. With cuts that bear no considerations about the timeline, audience may scrambles with the era. Yes, there were pieces of clues scattered but the guessing game were not at all pleasing especially when the shots were mostly done indoor. And with the scripts hurriedly pressing ahead, much characters development and dramatic substances have been unjustly compromised.

The movie also splurges with philosophical lines that seem to have forgotten the basic fact: the audience is watching. Audience may struggle to comprehend the screen characters, who seem to be conversing to themselves. Not that the acting of the protagonists were a thumb down,
but there is just no apparent connections between the characters and the changing environment. Their relationships were unexciting. Their screen chemistry was pathetic. Where finally the characters managed to raise the emotional temperature, a black screen interrupted with a few lines telling the departure of the characters!

No problems with the disappointing script and direction. After all, the majority of the box office goes to fans of the canto-pop Queen, who are eager to witness the change of Sammi Cheng taking on the mature role of Wang Qiyao. Sadly, her performance is nothing ground breaking. For a character with such depth as Wang Qiyao, Sammi merely scratches the surface. She tries hard to captivate the audience but the result looks awkward. But to be fair to the comedic queen, she well packed with the potential to gradually grow to an all-rounder actress.

While the high expectation on Sammi turns out to be all "hoo-har", fortunately, the supporting casts have never been better. The ever-trustworthy Tony Leung was Mr Cheng, a photographer cum silent admirer of Qiyao. Unlike what’s originally written on the script that Mr Cheng love and hated Qiyao, Tony Leung discarded the hate elements to focus on how his character had treasured every single moments he have with Qiyao. The results were sweet and moving. Though having little screen time, his emotions could even be felt from his voice narration throughout the movie.

Golden Horse Best Supporting Actor, Daniel Wu again charmed the screen with decent acting and a pretty boy looks, only this time with an oddly stick-on moustache that looks rather distracting. Overall, seeing him pulling off a courage-less Kang Minxun is simply enjoyable.

Mainland celebrity, Hu Jun and Sun Yan superb acting could have delivered more punch to the story especially when they are assuming roles that were vital part of Qiyao’s life. Strangely, both were underutilised and have little appearances in the movie.

Of course much could be talk about on the movie’s production designs and the soundtracks (hailed late Teresa Teng’s numbers!), pitifully there is nothing else memorable. Many parting scenes or sense of losses, which should have been emotionally charged, were plainly portrayed. A city of glamour been reduced to a depressing metropolis of political ploy, then to a forlorn capital are not properly conveyed. The anticipated dramatic build up of the finale just goes flat liner and the whole interpretation of the story questioned as the end credits started rolling.

Everlasting Regrets may receive rave reviews from the western critics or are highly recommended by judges of film festivals, frankly, this film may only be suitable for die-hard Sammi’s fan and those who prefers the unconventional.

Movie Rating:

(Regrettably, this movie leaves no everlasting impression)

Review by Leosen Teo


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