Saturday, February 11, 2006

LEAVING ME LOVING YOU - kitsch but charming romantic flick

Chances are that wherever you are sitting right now, that town hosts a film festival. Sure, Sundance, Cannes, the Berlinale, Toronoto, London, Venice - these get the publicity and the high-amp premieres - but cinema feels the love on a daily basis. Obscure towns have shorts festivals, digital festivals, minority groups festivals. London has the official film fest., Raindance for indie projects, a Shorts fest., the LGB fest, Portobello fest....and now, "Shanghai on Screen" playing every day at the Vue West End, right on Leicester Square. The idea is not so much to exhibit new work as to bring a whole range of historic and contemporary Chinese movies to a grateful audience that has, up until now, been fed a very select diet of Chinese cinema. Most distributors will only buy flicks that star actors recognisable in the West, or movies that have garnered so many awards they cannot fail to draw the crowd. So we get 2046 and In the Mood for Love. But we don't get the sort of everyday fare that fills Chinese multiplexes.

Opening the fest. we get a bizarre romantic movie called LEAVING ME LOVING YOU. It is directed by Wilson Yip in 2004. It stars Leon Lai, who you may know from Infernal Affairs 3, as an out-patient doctor in Shanghai. As the movie opens he is breaking up with his girlfriend, played by Faye Wong, who also starred in the wonderfuly 2046, as well as Chungking Express. The rest of the movie is an off-beat romance which brings the two back together. There is a lot in this film that is plain odd. The whole opening sequence is rather random - showing a van loaded with farm produce driving through the night before getting to Shanghai - getting in a car crash and then that's it! The orchestral score is the kind of orchestral cheese you would associate with a 1970s American day-time serial or a Bollywood movie. Plus, cheesy cha-cha-cha versions of classic romantic song, Moon River, play on continuous loop throughout the movie.

However, there is also a lot to love in the film. There are lots of great comedy cameos, and for people who have never been there, the sheer joy of seeing Shanghai up-close. Sure, this is a very stylised Shanghai, but my god, it looks wonderful. But the best thing of all about this movie is the sheer belief in romance. This is an all-out romantic movie. It is cheesy, it is kitsch, but you know, by the end, I really cared that the protagonists would get it together. And when they do, there are fireworks over Shanghai! For that alone, in many ways, this is a better Valentine's Day movie than Brief Encounter.

LEAVING ME LOVING YOU is currently on limited release in the UK.
SHANGHAI ON SCREEN is at the Vue, West End,Leicester Square,
Sat 11 Feb 3.00pm Nezha Conquers the Dragon King Sat 11 Feb 6.30pm Myriads of Lights
Sun 12 Feb 3.00pm Suzhou River Sun 12 Feb 6.30pm Shanghai Women
Tue 14 Feb 6.30pm Escape to Shanghai
Wed 15 Feb 6.30pm The Goddess

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the tip off - saw Suzhou River on Sunday and really loved it.