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Princess D
|     review    |     awards     |     availability     |
Cantonese: Seung Fei
Literally: Want to Fly
Year: 2002
Director: Sylvia Chang, Alan Yuen Kam-Lun
Cast: Daniel Wu, Edison Chan Koon-Hei, Angelica Lee Sum-Kit (Lee Sin-Jie), Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Pat Ha Man-Chik
The Skinny: Sylvia Chang's maligned drama is far from a perfect film, but it possesses an interesting narrative, as well as good performances by leads Daniel Wu and Angelica Lee. The film ultimately doesn't cohere, but it's certainly watchable. Chang shouldn't be punished for reaching too high. However, she shouldn't necessarily be lauded either.
Review
by Kozo:
     Joker (Daniel Wu) is a computer programmer working on a 3-D adventure game starring a virtual idol. Stuck for inspiration, he ends up finding it in Ling (Angelica Lee Sum-Kit AKA: Sinjie), a bartender at a dance club. While in a drug-induced stupor, Joker imagines Ling to be the perfect image of his virtual girl. He's immediately smitten, but more important, he now has a model for his virtual heroine: Princess D. 
     Ling needs some convincing at first, but she eventually goes along with Joker's plan. Sadly, his workplace would rather go with a busty Lara Croft-type than the waif-like Ling, so he quits and decides to develop Princess D independently. Aiding him is his younger brother Kid (Edison Chan), a slacker who spends too much time chatting on the Internet and lusts after his dream ICQ girl Lovely. The two put together a small group of programmers to bring their creation to life.
     But Ling has other problems. She's saddled with a difficult home life. Her dad is in prison, her son a low-level triad, and her mother (the long-absent Pat Ha) is mentally ill. Worse, they owe debts to vicious loan sharks who want Ling to smuggle drugs across the border to pay her debts off. Joker wants to help her, not just because she's become his friend and inspiration, but also because he's fallen in love with her. Her world is noticeably darker than his, and he desires to save her.
     Given the premise, Ling would have to be one fantastic girl, but Angelica Lee does a fine job of portraying the character. Her Ling is fierce and willful, yet tender and graceful. Lee has enough screen presence and charisma to make the part work, and Daniel Wu is fitting as Joker. Wu has been criticized frequently for his wooden acting and poor Cantonese, but he manages to give his characters sufficient inner life. Edison Chan performs decently here as he and Wu make convincing brothers. He's still a raw actor, but at least he's showing improvement.
     Where the film falters is its overstuffed plot, which sets too many details against each other. Just what is Princess D? Ostensibly, she's Ling, but she's meant to be more than that. The bottom line appears to be: Princess D is dreams. She's the unattainable made possible, provided you know what it is you're looking for. Joker attempts to understand just what it is that Ling wants, but never seems to be able to. Too frequently he's stumbling in the dark without direction. He looks to Ling for the way, but she's too busy dealing with her own issues.
     Ultimately, it's the hand of fate which solves things and not the individual characters, which is why the film seems to not possess any true resonance. The characters do appear to grow, but only because the script dictates that they do. Everything seems to be experienced alone. Kid grows through his experiences, as do Ling and Joker, but we never really get to see any of it occur. And we never truly understand why things have to end up the way they do.
     There are some fine moments in the film, however. Anthony Wong shows up as Joker and Kid's father, and he turns in a fine, understated performance. The cinematography is pleasing, as are the art direction and score. Sylvia Chang paces things well and certainly packs enough sentiment into the film to make it appealing. And some of the quieter moments (like the scenes between Angelica Lee and Anthony Wong) are quite telling and affecting.
     Still, Princess D just doesn't cohere completely. Sylvia Chang might have been trying for too much in creating this film. Every detail of the film is riddled with meaning, and they work fine as separate parts. However, when put together those parts only show us where the film is truly lacking. Instead of dissecting a chosen theme, the filmmakers might have been better off simply telling a story. Sometimes less is more. (Kozo 2002)
Awards:

22nd Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
Nomination - Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang)
Nomination - Best Action Design (Stephen Tung Wai)
Nomination - Best Original Song ("I Fly", performed by Angelica Lee Sum-Kit)
Nomination - Best Visual Effects (Wu Jian-Rong, Chiu Cheng-Ning, Daniel Ho, Alan Tuan)
39th Annual Golden Horse Awards
Winner - Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang)
Nomination - Best Visual Effects (Wu Jian-Rong, Chiu Cheng-Ning, Daniel Ho, Alan Tuan)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mega Star/Media Asia
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Director's Cut with 10 extra minutes
image courtesy of Media Asia
   
   
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