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Malaysia's "A Legendary Love," Philippines' "Crying Ladies," Taiwan's "20:30:40," and Thailand's "The Overture" round out our Oscar coverage...for now.
A Legendary Love
Director: Saw Teong Hin
Writers: Mamat Khalid, Saw Teong Hin
Director of Photography: Jason Kwan
Producers: Tiara Jacquelina, Shazalli Ramly
Starring: Tiara Jacquelina, M. Nasir, Adlin Aman Ramlie
Production company: Enfiniti Productions
Running time: 145 minutes
Plot: A Legendary Love, also known as Puteri Gunung Ledang, is set in the 15th century Malaysian kingdom of Melaka. First-time director Saw Teong Hin imagines a romance between the princess Gusti Putri Retno Dumillah and the warrior Hang Tuah, two important figures in Malaysian mythology. The lavish period epic is the most expensive in Malaysia’s history, costing 15 million Malaysian dollars (four million U.S. dollars) and employing almost 500 extras.
Director: Mark Meily
Writer: Mark Meily
Director of Photography: Lee Meily
Producers: Ray Cuerdo, Tony Gloria, Noemi Peji, Bobby A. Suarez
Starring: Sharon Cuneta, Hilda Koronel, Angel Aquino, Eric Quizon
Production company: Unitel Pictures
Running time: 110 minutes
Plot: With a title and story not unlike Liu Bingjian’s 2002 Cry Woman, Mark Meily’s Crying Ladies tells the story of professional criers: women employed to mourn at funerals. Crying Ladies follows three such professionals struggling to make a living and support their families. The film stars superstar Sharon Cuneta and was a commercial hit in the Philippines before receiving a limited release in the states in early 2004.
Director: Sylvia Chang
Writers: Sylvia Chang, Goo-Bi GC, Cat Kwan, Angelica Lee, Rene Liu
Producers: Hsu Li-kong, Patricia Cheng
Starring: Sylvia Chang, Rene Liu, Angelica Lee
Running time: 113 minutes
20:30:40 is the brainchild of its three leading ladies--Angelica Lee, Rene Liu, and director Sylvia Chang--who represent 20-something, 30-something, and 40-something women in contemporary Taiwan. Each of the three actresses contributed story ideas for each of their characters and the film crosscuts between each, leaving the audience to find connections. In the only overtly autobiographical story, Angelica Lee plays a young Malaysian woman who moves to Taiwan to become a pop star, but instead of finding fame, discovers a friend in a fellow singer. Rene Liu plays a flight attendant resistant to commitment but is constantly unhappy dealing with younger men and straying husbands. Sylvia Chang plays a florist who makes a delivery one day only to find that the recipient is her husband’s mistress.
The three actresses lead the cast well, which also includes cameos from several big-name Cantonese stars. Unfortunately, 20:30:40 doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know, and in my opinion, a great opportunity was wasted for Taiwanese cinema to express a feminine subjectivity devoid of Hollywood and soap opera clichés. The exceptions are the lighter, more improvisational elements in Angelica Lee’s third; the problem of course is that we must cut back to Liu and Chang’s segments. The three women never meet, although Sylvia Chang does connect the three stories with an earthquake (like Robert Altman’s Short Cuts) and an airport (less like Richard Curtis’s Love Actually than classic Taiwanese director Pai Ching-jui’s Home Sweet Home). All other shared experiences (heartbreak, loneliness, betrayal) are divorced from any material reality and are only convincing because of the actresses’ abilities to sustain emotion with subtlety. If one compares the film with mainstream Hong Kong romances (as many audiences would, given the presence of Lee), the film has some daring, especially with Chang’s self-destructiveness and Lee’s overtly homosexual encounter, but if read as a feminist statement (as many would, given the presence of Chang and the trio’s girl-power music video accompanying the film upon release), 20:30:40 leaves much to be desired.
Director: Itthisoontorn Vichailak
Writers: Itthisoontorn Vichailak, Peerasak Saksiri, Dolkamol Sattatip
Director of Photography: Nattawut Kittikhun
Editor: Itthisoontorn Vichailak
Producers: Itthisoontorn Vichailak, Nonzee Nimibutr, Pisami Laodara, Duangkamol Limcharoen, Chatrichalerm Yukol
Starring: Phuwarid Phumphuang
Production company: Sahamongkolfilm Co.
Running time: 103 minutes
Plot: The Overture begins at the death bed of Thai music legend Luang Praditphairoh and then flashes back to tell his life story, essentially reviewing the history and importance of traditional Thai music (Luang Praditphairoh plays the ranad ek, a wooden xylophone) in 20th century Thailand. The film is Itthisoontorn Vichailak’s second film in ten years, though his first, Lukbaa Tiao La Sud, was made ten years ago.
Date Posted: 12/21/2004