Based on the popular story "The Butterfly Lovers",
this incredibly sappy story from Tsui Hark features
massive production values but a considerable amount
of chutzpah, which isnít necessarily a good thing.
This is the age-old tale of
young Chuk Ying-Toi (Charlie Young), who disguises herself
as boy to attend college in ancient China (3 A.D.).
There she meets Leung Shan-Pak (Nicky Wu) and the two
become friends. However, as the story goes the two begin
to fall in love, which is a problem because Leung Shan-Pak
thinks they're both boys. Ying-Toi fears falling for
her classmate and revealing her identity to the other
students at large.
Since this is a modern Hong
Kong film directed by screwball comedy lover Tsui Hark,
the courtship of our two heroes is told in an incredibly
wacky Hong Kong way. Their story consists of lots of
muted slapstick, hideous mugging, and unbearably cute
moments. Thankfully the actors show good chemistry with
one another, and the widescreen cinematography and art
direction are way above par for Hong Kong.
The problems arrive in hour
two. The two young lovers are able to forge a bond unlike
any other, or so the film wants us to believe. When
their love is tested, disbelief settles in and the film
undergoes a most trying tonal shift. First itís very
cute, wacky, and endearing, and then suddenly itís horribly
tragic. When her parents (the excellent Carrie Ng and
the blustering Tsui Kam-Kong) object to their relationship
due to class issues, the two rebel. Then...IT ALL GOES
TO HELL! Strangely, Shan-Pak and Ying-Toiís forced parting
is a horrible tragedy of epic proportions.
This overdone romanticism is a Hong
Kong Cinema trademark that Tsui Hark heartily endorses.
While The Lovers plays on some rather familiar
and dear emotions, it also succeeds at being perhaps
the most terribly self-indulgent romance ever heard
of. If you can buy it, itís compelling and utterly watchable,
and the great production values and beautiful music
only add to the effect. If you donít, then youíre in
for a lot of head shaking. (Kozo