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Love in the City
     

(left) Gao Yuanyuan, and (right) Shawn Yue in Love in the City.
Chinese: 男才女貌
Year: 2007  
Director: Jingle Ma Chor-Sing  
  Cast: Shawn Yue, Gao Yuanyuan, Takuya Suzuki, Miyake Nao
  The Skinny: Two sweet love stories set in China, highlighted by their idealized beauty and almost bothersome lack of any edge. There's some charm and satisfaction to be had in the simplicity of Jingle Ma's storytelling, but beyond that this is light and forgettable stuff. However, fans of Shawn Yue and Gao Yuanyuan should probably see it right away.
 
Review
by Kozo:

Director Jingle Ma's Love in the City presents two wholesome little stories about love set in rural China. However, the interest and effectiveness of each differs quite a bit. Traffic cop Yang Le (Shawn Yue) has a thing for deaf-mute Xiaolou (Gao Yuanyuan), who wanders by his crossing every day. The infatuation goes both ways, and before you know it, Le is learning sign language in an attempt to impress his ideal girl. She responds to his smiles and glances, but when he finally gets the nerve to ask her out, she leaves the city and goes to the countryside to visit her father's farm. Le hightails it out there too, confesses his love, and before long they're holding hands and are deeply in love.

Meanwhile, Japanese-Chinese translator Makoto (Takuya Suzuki) falls hard and fast for actress Yuko (Miyake Nao). He's assigned to be her assistant/translator while her current one is in the hospital, and there's a noticeable initial attraction between the two. Circumstances lead them to spar a bit, but the sparks and situations give way to a pure affection, and before long they're holding hands and are deeply in love. Wow, life is wonderful, isn't it?

The above plot description pretty much demonstrates how airy the first half of Love in the City is. This movie is about simple, true love attained without much suspense or conflict. Director Jingle Ma gives everything a pure, wholesome feel, with plenty of sidelong glances and secret "Wow, he likes me!" smiles. There's an undeniable attraction in this light, romantic story, buoyed largely by Ma's clean, soft-focus depiction of rural China, plus the photogenic likeability of his actors. Shawn Yue is guileless and very handsome, while Gao Yuanyuan's sweet smile and mature demeanor give her a fresh, lovely screen presence. Takuya Suzuki and Miyake Nao suffer in comparison to Yue and Gao, partly because their storyline isn't as immediately heartrending. Of course it's more winning when a handsome fellow like Shawn Yue attempts to learn sign language to win the love of a pure-hearted deaf-mute girl like Gao Yuanyuan. Seeing a translator romance an actress just doesn't have the same innate appeal.

That trend continues, with the Shawn Yue-Gao Yuanyuan pairing making the Takuya Suzuki-Miyake Nao storyline look more uninteresting and needless as the film progresses. That's not to say that one romance is great while the other isn't, because the whole movie never comes to feel necessary, making both romances little more than manufactured "pure love" filler. Conflict does eventually rear its ugly head when Xioulou's dad objects to her new boyfriend, for reasons that eventually get known later on in the film. By the time that happens, a possible tragedy has arrived, threatening to turn this sweet little movie into a 96-minute retread of a standard TV melodrama, only without the extra 10-12 hours necessary to turn these characters into more than just types.

Eventually, the whole becomes far too simple, such that it never affects that deeply. There's an outline of tried-and-true melodrama here, but it's just that: an outline. The characters are simple, and stay idealistic and absolutely pure up until the very end of the film. Even the characters' stubborn qualities are drawn so affectionately that there's little room for emotional complexity. The film plays on the most basic, unimaginative expectations an audience could have. Ultimately, we know how we should feel about Love in the City because the film really leaves us no possible alternative.

Again, the above only applies to the Shawn Yue-Gao Yuanyuan storyline, which is routine but beguiling. The other story just goes from uninteresting to cheesy and sometimes laughable, as the two new lovers face a comparatively unexciting conflict. The two face difficulties when the movie shoot winds down, as Yuko is heading back to Japan, but Makoto doesn't want to follow because of some minor exposition involving his father. The final developments and resolution get a little self-indulgent because she's an actress, meaning we get a couple of loaded scenes where she recites the lines from the cheesy movie she's acting in, and directs them at her beloved translator. Add to that an awards ceremony climax, complete with an appearance from executive producer Stanley Tong, and you have a romance plot that needed more depth or development, if not a complete overhaul. Given the imbalance between the two storylines, this second story could even have been excised from the film.

Thankfully, the film again returns to the Shawn Yue-Gao Yuanyuan story to provide most of the dramatic meat, but the final resolution to that is curious because it doesn't seem to achieve anything besides basic audience expectation. The characters aren't truly developed enough and some details and potential revelations are even left hanging, such that one wonders why they bothered to include them in the first place. When it's all over, the most memorable things about Love in the City are its beautiful, idealized look (China is exceptionally pretty here) and perhaps one or two minor images or moments. The whole is forgettable and devoid of any lasting purpose, though one could claim Love in the City to be more successful than Jingle Ma's recent Happy Birthday because it aims so very low and regularly hits its target with routine, workmanlike finesse. Does that make it a good film? Not really, but for time-killing pure love airiness, Love in the City can satisfy. (Kozo 2007)

 
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin and Cantonese Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
 

images courtesy of g-film.com

   
   
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