Orchid in the Rain



Reviewed by YTSL

“If my memory of her has an expiration date, let it be 10,000 years...”  So goes the quote that has a prominent place on the “Chungking Express” postcard that’s on my refrigerator door, and that I reckon is meant to refer to the actress whose last film appearance was in that 1994 Wong Kar Wai work as well as the blonde wigged woman who she essayed in it.  In any event, it occurred to me when recently viewing an earlier effort in which Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia also appeared that many of the characters that she portrayed in her distinguished career have had the sort of powerful impact on people that makes it so that they are inclined to believe -- like with this 1977 Taiwanese movie’s male protagonist -- that “I can’t forget her” and “she begins to creep into my heart” plus be moved to openly declare to her that “I just want your love”.

The full blown weepie that is ORCHID IN THE RAIN opens with a shot of an individual gunning his red, open topped sports car along a lonely, winding road that turns out to lead to an institution run by a Roman Catholic order.  From the conversation that he (who is played by Alan Tang and gets named as Cheng Yang) has there with one of the Sisters (Ouyang Shafei) who work at the place, the information gets gleaned re the establishment’s being a mental asylum (rather than a Convent, as I had initially suspected).  Also, that a female patient of it who was identified as suffering from “serious hysteria” -- and that the nun confided to the visitor that she was most concerned about plus pitied the most -- is someone whose troubled state the upset looking young man feels that he has caused to come about.
As revealed via flashbacks, the (now) psychologically disturbed woman in question is someone who Cheng Yang had first set eyes on -- and was instantly smitten by -- at the entrance to a boat terminal one fateful night after this scion of a wealthy family had left a party hosted by a cousin of his.  Even without being as glamorously dressed for the evening as she in fact was, Shu Chiu Meng undoubtedly would have grabbed the eligible bachelor’s particular fancy (on account of her coming in the form of none other than Brigitte Lin -- i.e., the charismatic individual nicknamed “Wondrous Beauty” by the Chinese entertainment news media).  As it was, despite a less than happy looking -- but, nonetheless, still visually stunning -- her spurning his romantic overtures on that occasion, the art student could not help but spend a significant amount of time afterwards thinking of she who had refused to even tell him her name plus ordered him not to try to figure out where she lived as well as had been disinclined to accept outright his offer to pay her ferry fare (and in enough detail as to be able to paint a portrait of this mystery femme from memory).
As luck would have it, Chiu Meng turned out to be employed at the art design shop that Cheng Yang visited one day.  Although the still less than forthcoming female initially tried to pretend that she didn’t know the excited fellow, she ended up having to admit that they had indeed met before.  Also, while Chiu Meng continued to be reluctant to tell the persistent Cheng Yang her name, he was able to learn it this time due to it being emblazoned on a sign on her desk at work.  Despite her issuing such warnings to him as “I will make you hopeless”, the besotted fellow just would and could not be dissuaded from his romantic pursuit of the close to heartstoppingly gorgeous lass.  About one third into ORCHID IN THE RAIN, proof is provided of Cheng Yang having managed to at least temporarily get his way.  By this, I mean that this largely melodramatic offering’s viewers are treated to the kind of happy plus loving scenes -- including one filmed in silhouette and slow motion -- that probably were successful in touching the hearts of movie audiences some two and half decades ago but, if truth be told, caused this contemporary (re)viewer to burst into near hysterical laughter instead.
Thanks in some part, however, to the previously taciturn Chiu Meng’s disclosing to Cheng Yang (on the first birthday that she celebrated post becoming his girlfriend) that she formerly was a bar girl, and his -- disappointingly, to my mind -- seeming to agree that this made her “dirty” and less “innocent” than him (even though her reason for being in that line of work was so that she could support her mentally incompetent father, seriously ill mother and school going younger sister), the laughs soon disappear from this couple’s relationship and ORCHID IN THE RAIN as a whole.  Worse was to follow with the entrance into the picture of a man from Chiu Meng’s past named Lo Piao who damningly claimed, among other things, that he and she had lived together before she abruptly walked out on him.  Despite this individual’s looking extremely sleazy plus shady, the terribly naive Cheng Yang believed Lo Piao when the obvious slime ball asserted that he loved Chiu Meng (And this even while he was eager enough to tell others that “she is the darkest woman”).
In light of what was shown earlier in ORCHID IN THE RAIN, the trajectory -- even if not precise details -- of the sequence of events that follow Cheng Yang and Lo Piao’s confrontation turned discussion, followed by an actual agreement, is one that ought to be fairly easy to predict.  Ditto, especially in light of what the audience were shown earlier in the film, re the negative consequences and effects that it was to have on Chiu Meng.  Under normal circumstances, this state of affairs would cause a movie to drop many notches in my estimation.  Since the ultimately quite involving effort’s expected turn towards the extra dramatic allowed my favorite actress to show that she already possessed an impressive expressive range early in her career however, this is one of those times that I think that it all just might have been for the best.

My rating for this film: 6.