Outside the Window
Reviewed by YTSL
This Taiwanese film has never been shown in
cinemas in its native country and is not readily available anywhere in
the world. Although it was a big hit in Hong Kong -- and presumably
elsewhere in East Asia -- when it was released there nearly three decades
ago, it can hardly be considered to be a cinematic gem by any stretch of
the imagination. Yet this admittedly maudlin melodrama is a movie
that I was very happy to come across and which I have a feeling that quite
a few Hong Kong moviephiles would quite gladly watch if given the chance.
This is because OUTSIDE THE WINDOW is the debut
movie of Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia. However strange it may seem for
those who have not (yet) fallen under her spell, there is incredible novelty
value in watching this screen goddess in a film that was completed:
At least one decade before she made her Hong Kong movie debut as the Ice
Countess in Tsui Hark's landmark "Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain";
and some TWENTY years before she would become Asia the Invincible (in "Swordsman
II" and "The East is Red"), The Bride with White Hair, The Defeat-Seeking
Loner (of "Ashes of Time") and Wong Kar Wai's Gloria (in "Chungking Express").
For those who have read about her real-life romance(s) as well as watched
the heart-rending "Red Dust", there is tremendous irony and poignancy in
her tragic OUTSIDE THE WINDOW character getting involved in a socially
unacceptable relationship and then essentially forced into marriage with
a man...who is portrayed by an actor (Chin Han) who met the actress nicknamed
"Wondrous Beauty" (by the Chinese media) on the set of this film, subsequently
divorced his wife for her and last partnered her on screen in Yim Ho's
1990 directorial effort.
How Brigitte Lin (or Lin Ching Shyia, as she is
credited in the film) came to be found to star -- and, make no mistake,
she is its centerpiece, heart and soul -- in OUTSIDE THE WINDOW appears
shrouded in myths and legend. One source tells of her being "discovered"
on a busy Taipei street. According to another (Toby Russell), the
then teenager was noticed by a director when she accompanied a friend to
the audition for the movie. The story goes that the woman who would
go on to be a magnetic presence in 100+ Hong Kong as well as Taiwanese
films had no prior acting aspirations or experience whatsoever, and was
picked to appear in this circa 1971-1973 production primarily on the basis
of her classic beauty rather than any thespian talent.
Even if all of this were not true, it would still
be amazing to see someone -- who possibly was still a school student when
this feature was made -- having to do so much and so successfully in her
very first film. In a spoiler-filled nutshell: Lin's character
goes from being a school girl who has spats with her younger brother and
is primarily concerned with passing her pre-university exams to an embittered
and abused -- at least once -- wife. Along the way, she falls in
love with a teacher who is twenty years her senior (played by Hwyu Chyi)
and attempts suicide after being forbidden by her parents to see him.
More evidence of truth being liable to be stranger
than fiction comes from this sensational(ist) story being a thinly veiled
autobiography of a popular romance novelist (named Qiong Yao). It
was purportedly at the author's request -- for fear that the tale would
bring shame to her mother -- that this movie was not released in Taiwan.
I must admit to wondering about the validity of this report since the film
was based on a 1963 book that Qiong Yao herself had written.
In any case, in quite a few ways, one can view
this fairly modest production as containing so many portends of what was
to come. Among them is the fact that although Lin Ching-Hsia was
a popular star of many Taiwanese movies -- mostly weepies like OUTSIDE
THE WINDOW -- in the 1970s (the era known as that of "the two Chins and
the two Lins"; with one of the Chins being Chin Han, and the two Lins being
the woman who has also been credited as Venus -- again, because of her
noted loveliness -- and the actress who disappeared from public view after
marrying Jackie Chan), Hong Kong was where Brigitte Lin really would come
into her own.
My rating for the film: 5.5; my rating
for (the pre-Brigitte) Lin Ching-Hsia: 9.
For an article on Brigitte Lin and Chin Han,