City of Glass
This film is an ode to the face of Hsu Chi. The
director and cinematographer embrace her face like a work of sacred art.
Every facet of her face is photographed in close up mode from every angle,
in every light, in every expression. It is a sight to behold. Her beauty
This valentine is saturated in sentiment and nostalgia,
but the production quality is fabulous and the direction so smooth that
it goes down like 20-year old bourbon. Scenes of London and HK are gorgeous.
The film opens in style with Hsu Chi and Leon
Lai driving down a street in London on New Years Eve with fireworks and
the Tower Bridge in the background. That along with the smile on Hsu Chi’s
face lights up the night and creates a spectacular vision. Then suddenly
the car swerves, crashes and both Leon and Hsu are dead. It turns out that
they are married, but not to each other and both have a grown up child.
Hmm? Hsu in her forties?. Fortunately, the director didn't have the heart
to even try and make Hsu look older.
The two children – one a male, the other female
– return to HK to settle the affairs of their parents and try to learn
about their parent's love affair as well. The film begins to slide effortlessly
between the relationship that starts to develop between the two offspring
and flashbacks that detail the twenty-year-old love affair of Leon and
Hsu. It is very well done, but because we know that they are dead, a layer
of sadness and nostalgia permeates the film.
Hsu Chi radiates like fissionable material, but
she also does an excellent acting job. Her expressions and movements always
feel just right and very natural. She just continues to get better.
For this type of sentimental film this is a pretty
good one. But beware - if you think numerous renditions of the song
"Try and Remember" might cause you permanent brain damage, you better skip
this one !
Directed by Mabel Cheung who must enjoy films
that take place over a long number of years - as she also directed the
My rating for this film: 7.5
Reviewed by YTSL
This is a movie that really does look good.
It is technically polished and stylishly filmed, and features an ample
amount of softly-lit interior and scenic outdoor shots. Virtually
nothing in it is unpleasant to view. Even a scene of a fatal car
crash is made to look artistic rather than horrific.
As I sat back to watch CITY OF GLASS, the thought
that sneaked up on -- and nagged at -- me though was that this was a film
in which style was being emphasized over substance, gloss over reality,
rose-tinted nostalgia over harsher-tinged memory. Consequently, what
could have been a movie about interesting people living in interesting
times (of student protest, political awakening, communal as well as individual
coming of age, socio-cultural change, Hand-Over fears, preparations and
actuality) was forsaken in favor of one which mainly concentrated on showing
photogenic -- and largely self-absorbed -- individuals in picturesque surroundings.
In all fairness, this movie truly does have some
nice visual moments and touches. I particularly liked the scenes
of a formally attired Hsu Chi and her similarly dressed college-mates entering
their dining hall, Leon Lai and her meeting in London, and that of their
airplanes flying over Hong Kong. It was also kind of "neat" to see
the Hand-Over fireworks display (and parts of Prince Charles' speech!)
incorporated into a Hong Kong movie.
Still, pretty pictures -- especially ones that
are only moving in one sense but not another -- cannot adequately compensate
for this movie's many (emotional, plot, musical, etc.) failings.
All in all, this is a disappointing – though not necessarily dislikable
-- effort from director Mabel Cheung which I was shocked to learn was nominated
for -- but did not win -- many Hong Kong Film awards (including those
for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director as well as
Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography).
My rating for this film: 6.