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Miss Du Shi Niang
     

(left) Daniel Wu and Michelle Reis, and (right) Clifton Ko and Lydia Shum in Miss Du Shi Niang.
Cantonese: Miss To Sup Leung  
Year: 2003  
Director: Raymond To Kwok-Wai  
Producer: Clifton Ko Chi-Sum  
Writer: Raymond To Kwok-Wai  
Cast: Michelle Reis, Daniel Wu, Lydia Shum Din-Ha, Clifton Ko Chi-Sum, Anson Leung Chun-Yat, Chloe Chiu Shuet-Fei
The Skinny: Entertaining stage adaptation featuring the typically gorgeous Michelle Reis and a block of wood named Daniel Wu. Raymond To's parable of love vs. money ultimately pulls its punches, but getting there is worth it.
Review
by Kozo:
     Miss Du Shi Niang stars the amazingly beautiful Michelle Reis as Du Shi-Niang (or To Sup-Leung in Cantonese), a famous Ming Dynasty prostitute who decides to chuck it all for love. Despite being ultra-popular in her profession, Miss Du longs for a true love to whisk her away, a label she quickly attaches to hunky young scholar Li Jia (Daniel Wu). Fooling him into thinking he's had a one night stand with her, Miss Du proceeds to charm and worm her way into his heart and life, a task which seems incredibly easy given Michelle Reis' fabulous bone structure.
     Liu agrees to try to free Miss Du from the clutches of the brothel mamasan Ye Cha (Lydia Shum), but his efforts prove futile. He doesn't have the money or the apparent guts to get the job done, so Miss Du attempts to do it all for him - with the understanding that he truly loves her. Sadly, that understanding might be a miscommunication at best, and an outright lie at worst. But even in defeat, Miss Du proves to be a stronger, and more devious opponent than she seems.
      Based on a stageplay by writer/director Raymond To Kwok-Wai, Miss Du Shi Niang certainly seems quite stagey. To takes us to some exterior shots of rural China, but by and large the film is noticeably set-bound, and full of many talky exchanges of dialogue rather than narrative cinematic techniques. This is apparent in the acting too, as it's exceptionally mannered, with an obvious rhythm that resembles the cadences of stage-timed acting.
     That said, it's all done exceptionally well. Miss Du Shi Niang has a bouncy, jaunty tone, which is further enhanced by tacky musical numbers featuring dancing courtesans. Those scenes alone lend a certain cheese factor, but beneath all the fancy costumes and stagey acting are some fine observations on human behavior, and the material desires which drive people. To's screenplay is funny, and just dense enough to be intelligent without being indecipherable. Sadly, Daniel Wu is uninteresting and completely unconvincing, though the rest of the cast turns in suitably amusing performances. As Du Shi-Niang, Michelle Reis brings requisite charm and beauty, and though she may not be an exceptionally deep actress, she manages the role with admirable dignity.
     If anything truly negative can be said about Miss Du Shi Niang, it would be that it's perhaps played a bit too lightly. The film takes twists and turns that lend themselves to some darker comedy, but director To is content to make things bouncy and breezy, where even the loss of love and fortune can be dismissed with just a shrug and some new clothes and makeup. At just eighty-six minutes, Miss Du Shi Niang flies by with the facile charm of a high school play - which isn't really a knock. Even light, cheaply-staged stuff can possess intelligence and even a little depth, and Miss Du Shi Niang certainly does. (Kozo 2004)
Availability:

DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Entertainment
Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Making of, Trailers

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