Eason Chan plays a Duan, a young funeral director who's hired
by Yee (Charlene Choi of the group Twins) to plan a funeral,
namely hers. She has intestinal cancer, and anticipates her
death despite the fact that she still has some chance of living.
Duan agrees to help her with her funeral, but ends up spending
just as much time encouraging her to live. He becomes Yee's
"lifeline" which impels her to seek medical help
and ultimately Duan's acceptance of her love.
The "terminal beauty"*
plot device has been a staple of Hong Kong Cinema for years
now. C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri is arguably the most beloved
recent example, but the same plot device turns up in movies
like Lost and Found, Dr. Mack, and Feel 100%...once
more. Even the guys have had their turn (What a Wonderful
World starring Andy Lau). Perhaps this was a reaction
to the impending 1997 Reunification, as terminal illness could
easily be seen as a metaphor for Hong Kong's return to the
However, Funeral March was
released in 2001. So what's its excuse? Nothing really, except
it gets to tell a pretty decent story. Director Joe Ma, who's
made his career out of mostly fluffy relationship comedies,
drops his usual mode of direction and adopts a restrained,
even opaque style that perfectly suits the somber script.
He tells the story through action rather than exposition.
That is, until the ending when exposition is absolutely necessary
to explain the film's ultimate direction. The film's closure
could be seen as reactionary twist, but it remains true to
the characters and adds real resonance to the film.
Ma's choice of actors is a real plus,
too. For his "terminal beauty," he chose newcomer
Charlene Choi, whose common beauty and unpolished acting lend
authenticity to the film. Eason Chan turns out to be a surprise.
His previous work has been nearly unbearable (check out Comic
King or Rumble Ages to see what I'm talking about),
but his performance here is measured and fitting to the character.
Chan has never projected a truly likable screen presence,
but that is a quality that seems fitting for Duan, especially
when we learn more about him. Chan seems more suited to drama
than comedy. The same could be said for Joe Ma, who shows
that he isn't all misty youth romances. Hopefully this marks
a new direction for him. (Kozo 2001)