Poor Chasers

Reviewed by YTSL

This 1980 Taiwanese film should be of interest to fans of Chin Han and Alan Tam (who portray good buddies, Chen Cheng Hsiung and Fang Juai, in it plus croon a couple of songs with lyrics like “My heart has a cloud.  But you brushed it away” and “When will I see your candle light?”!).  Although she is the great unknown for me of the offering’s four main cast members, Chan Chan-Ha probably has her share of admirers who are happy to see her in her playing a part in this movie’s proceedings as Li Lun Mei, the fluffier -- but also more mean-spirited -- half of another pair of close friends.  For my money though, the hands-down superior show-stealing performances here come courtesy of the ever remarkable Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia (as a studious and sensitive soul named Shen Jung) and veteran actress Gua Ah Leh (as her utterly honorable mother).

In much the same way as the relationship between Brigitte Lin and Chin Han’s characters in “Red Dust” paled in comparison to that between the Taiwanese film goddess and Maggie Cheung’s in that 1990 Golden Horse Best Film award winner, there is an emotional depth and palpably powerful feel to the scenes in this at times heart-wrenching tear-jerker in which both the younger and older women prominently figure that make all the other relationships and characters in the work seem very light weight and not particularly genuine.  Consequently, POOR CHASERS works best -- and primarily comes across to me -- as a commemoration of the kind of strong love that a mother and her daughter can have for each other (rather than a celebration of romantic pursuit and passion or a meditation of the extents and limits of even the strongest of platonic friendships).

Settling down to watch that whose alternative title is “A Pair of Silly Birds”(!) this past weekend, I had not banked at all on the technically imperfect work eliciting the kind of reactions and feelings from me that it ended up doing.  As a matter of fact, based on the review of POOR CHASERS at <www.brigittelin.com>, I was expecting and looking very much forward to “[a] light-hearted Saturday afternoon matinee” of a viewing experience.  Early appearances -- this effort gets going with three minutes worth of footage of a tennis match in which “a couple of hams” find themselves getting handily thrashed by two cute “girls” -- as well as that description to the contrary though, what the movie soon developed into was the kind of melodramatic piece which involves someone getting close to death (as a result of over-worrying about another) along with others getting emotionally -- if not physically -- hurt and crying buckets as well as reluctantly having to eat humble pie.
POOR CHASERS’ English subtitles initially identified the two females and males who first met on a tennis court as school students.  Although she was actually twenty-five years old when this film was released, I was totally willing to believe that Brigitte Lin’s character was a senior in high school; so young did she look and also act (E.g., fresh-faced she can be seen skipping -- as opposed to strolling or running -- along from one side of the tennis court to another!).  As it later became clear though, the movie’s four main characters actually are supposed to be college seniors.  However, as can be seen from their all apparently succumbing to fall into the throes of first love in this production, they can be far more naive than one might expect them to be.  Additionally, the kind of antics that Shen Jung, Li Lun Mei and the two self-proclaimed “pair of dodos” -- who got more than they bargained when they decided to romantically pursue the pair of lasses -- are seen enacting really can seem downright juvenile.
Cutting to the chase:  The main story in POOR CHASERS concerns one disgruntled female using her best friend -- and also his best pal, including by way of getting them to be opponents in what may well be the most inept boxing match ever filmed! -- to take revenge on a fellow for his falling in love with her frankly much nicer and lovelier best friend instead of her.  An associated sub-plot involves poor Shen Jung -- the only daughter of a laundry woman whose unworthy husband had left her early in their marriage to fend for herself and their child -- getting into a far from ideal situation in which she feels obliged to weave lies about her mother as well as herself (that she, of course, eventually gets made to regret).
However trivial and hackneyed all this may sound, I have to honestly say that I bought into it, and in such a wholesale manner that I got to seriously wondering whether watching old Brigitte weepies may be hazardous to my physical as well as mental health!  Lest it not be already crystal clear, I think it is a pretty major tribute to the dramatic abilities of Brigitte Lin -- and, in this case, also Gua Ah Leh -- that I found myself taking a work like POOR CHASERS as seriously as I did.  Once again then, the woman who members of the Chinese media designated as “Wondrous Beauty” has furnished ample evidence of her being as able an actress as she is a stunning individual to gaze at (for her looks alone, never mind the range of expressions that can play on her -- yes, yes, I know I’m gushing here but oh hell! -- absolutely adorable face).

This Brigittephile’s rating for the film:  6