The Other Side of Gentleman


This 1984 effort comes at an interesting point in Brigitte Lin's career - a crossroads of sorts. For nearly the entire decade of the 1970's she had been the major female actress in Taiwan. These Taiwanese films are a far cry from the Hong Kong films that Brigitte was later to become legendary for, but at that time her dramas and light comedies were tremendously popular throughout the Chinese communities around the world. These films are basic and predictable - and are carried entirely by the luminescent beauty and radiant personality of Brigitte. Both mothers and men adored her – the perfect daughter-in-law, the perfect wife, the perfect woman.
There were a few factors though that drove Brigitte to follow a different career path. First there was a romantic entanglement that caused Brigitte to leave Taiwan and live in the United States for a short period of time. Secondly, the style of films that Brigitte had been making were going out of fashion and the entire Taiwanese film industry was going into a slump that it has never really come out of. With the exception of some curious films (rumored to be triad requested) for Taiwanese director Chu Yen Ping, in the early 80's Brigitte began her transition to Hong Kong, but it wasn't an easy one. Though Brigitte appeared in some high profile films - she was more a major supporting actress than the star as she had been in Taiwan. In 1983 she appeared in Zu Warriors and All the Wrong Spies and though she is dazzling in both, her characters play somewhat second fiddle to the likes of Yuen Biao, Meng Hoi, Moon Lee in Zu and ignominiously to George Lam and Teddy Robin in Spies. In 1985 she was secondary to Jackie Chan and Maggie Cheung in Police Story and it wasn't really until her charismatic turn in Peking Opera Blues in 1986 that she was able to reclaim her status as a great star and a great actress.
Tsui Hark somehow knew that this willowy actress from the Taiwanese weepies had a backbone of steel resolve and could play larger than life characters - and he utilized her in brilliant fashion in Zu and Peking Opera Blues (and of course in some later films) - but the same can not be said of Ringo Lam. The Other Side of Gentleman was only Ringo's second film and he clearly had not found his style yet. Of course, if you look at his future output, it seems clear that he is not a woman's director - and looks to be much more comfortable with his male actors and male characters. For my money he makes bad use of Brigitte in this film - frustratingly so at times - and focuses much of the film on Alan Tam. Brigitte has a fair amount of screen time but her character is always shown in relation to Tam's - as if it has no life of its own. Yet hers is clearly the more interesting character. Criminally, Lam hardly has a close-up of Brigitte in the entire film – her trademark in her Taiwanese films where the camera often comes to a dead heart shocked stop and simply worships her face.
The film begins as a light fluffy comedy that portends an enjoyable little farce, but as it progresses it slowly becomes more serious and leaves its charms behind at the roadside. As is often Lam's inclination, he delves into the subject of obsession, but while he later had actors such as Lau Ching-wan and Chow Yun Fat to explore this with, here he is stuck with Alan Tam. An Alan Tam obsessed reminded me of a petulant Mouskateer looking for his misplaced ears. I kept hoping Annette Funicello would show up and tell him to get a grip and put him over her knee. Whenever Brigitte is in a scene with him she towers over him charismatically like the Colossus of Rhodes over a mouse. Alan Tam is simply not Brigitte worthy.
In this film Brigitte is participating in a university psychology experiment. The premise of the group is that the right woman can break a man of his playboy tendencies and by utilizing certain psychological pressure points can make the man a contributing and responsible member of society. In other words, emasculate him. Why they would need to test this theorem is a mystery to me – all they need do is look around at all the miserable married men in the world. The test subject is happy go lucky Alan Tam, but after rejecting a number of female candidates – they realize that the perfect woman is in their own group – Brigitte. She blushes like a schoolgirl, but is soon happily buying new clothes and adorning the tricks of the seduction trade – makeup and an irresistible pout.
Alan of course doesn’t stand a chance – he is swept up like a tidal wave and is soon madly in love with Brigitte. For Brigitte though this is only an experiment – rather a cruel one actually - and she is engaged to a university professor. Now this is where the audience is supposed to – in true screwball tradition – root for Brigitte to dump the stiff fiancé and fall in love with Alan. The problem though is that Alan is such an annoying git (and as I mentioned totally un-Brigitte worthy) that I wanted her to stick with the professor. It’s like rooting for Ralph Bellamy against Cary Grant, but rooting for Alan would be as perverse as wanting Cubby to end up in bed with Annette.

My rating for this film: 5.0



DVD Information:

Distributed by Media Asia/Mega Star

The transfer is excellent - especially for one this old.

Letterboxed

Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks

8 Chapters

The subtitles are Chinese, English, Thai, Vietnamese, Spanish or none.

There is a trailer for this film - and ones for Cupid One, All the Wrong Spies and Esprit D' amour.