Conjugal Affairs
(AKA In Between AKA The New Age of Living Together)

Reviewed by YTSL

Two’s company, three’s a crowd.  So goes an English saying.  To fans of such as “The Heroic Trio”, “Peking Opera Blues” and “The Soong Sisters”, however, three can seem like an ideal number.  Then there are those Hong Kong movies -- including “Boys Are Easy”, the “It’s a Wonderful Life” that doesn’t star James Stewart as well as the “All’s Well, Ends Well” series of Chinese New Year offerings -- whose makers appear to subscribe to the idea of it being so that “the more, the merrier”; hence their being populated with three or more pairs of ace actors and actresses (who, more often than not, turn out to be -- in more than one sense -- game jokers).

Like the majority of the latter efforts, CONJUGAL AFFAIRS focuses on a group of personalities who share a home.  However, while the core individuals of those other works tended to be related by blood or (eventually) through marriage, the trio at the heart of this movie happen to be:  The landlady of a spacious apartment (Maggie Cheung’s busy Co Co -- as the name gets spelt out in the English subtitles -- character also is a boutique owner); and her two tenants (One of whom, a hairstylist known as Eddie, is played by Jan Lam; the other of whom, a stockbroker named Steven, is essayed by Nicky Wu).  Something else that helps this Unique Films Ltd. offering live up to its production house’s name is the romantic drama-comedy’s being structured in the form of three loosely connected segments that have their own titles -- of “Star Hunter”, “Lonely Hearts Club” and “Unwed Mother” respectively -- as well as are helmed by different directors.

Although all three of the apartment mates do make early appearances in CONJUGAL AFFAIRS, the first third of this 1993 film really centers on Eddie, whose disinclination to be romantically tied down to a single person causes his girlfriend to give up on their relationship.  Before too long though, another female turns up in this Samson Chiu directed section of the offering to test his resolve (One that he is disposed to articulate in terms of “Don’t give up the heavens for the sake of one single star”).  Seeing as the somewhat mysterious Icy comes in the form of Wu Chien-Lien (whose more notable roles include “Beyond Hypothermia”’s cold-blooded assassin, an utterly terrifying “Intruder” and a deceptively innocent looking revenge-seeker in “Dragon Town Story”), I had visions for a while there of the actually rather sweet-natured Eddie suffering a horrible fate at the hands of the admittedly pooky-faced woman with whom he initially struck up a fun (but) platonic friendship.  And while my paranoid fears did prove to be groundless, I’ll still vouchsafe that this portion of the movie does have the least satisfactory conclusion (as well as overall story plus choice of music).
At around the 30 minute mark of the film, attention shifts from Eddie (and Icy) to Steven.  Although Nicky Wu does manage to hold his own in the charm and acting department vis a vis the other -- sometimes way more illustrious -- members of CONJUGAL AFFAIR’s cast, this Yon Fan helmed second -- and middle -- segment of the movie really only comes to life when he is joined on centre-stage by Sylvia Chang (who is absolutely radiant as well as very glamorous looking here, as befits her role as a Tai Tai named Anna).  It takes a while for this to happen, since Steven is initially shown to be pre-occupied with trying to please a girlfriend he has known since they were children (but not succeeding due to her being too infatuated with Andy Lau!).  However, some magical and special moments ensue after the young man meets an older, more mature and sophisticated -- yet emotionally vulnerable as well as open -- woman by way of a blind date arranged over the phone.
Not long after her Anna character departs from the picture, Sylvia Chang takes over the driving reins of the remaining third (section) of CONJUGAL AFFAIRS.  The portion of the movie in which Winston Chao (whose Fai, Co Co has had on and off -- then back on again -- relationship for six years) and Eric Kot (who plays Co Co’s gay friend and business partner, Ah Keung) fairly prominently figure -- along with Co Co and a Russian fellow named Nicholas -- is one that I wouldn’t be surprised to find had also been scripted by the multi-talented Ms. Chang.  In any case, that which had the potential to be the most serious part of this offering -- due to its main, unmarried character finding out that she was going to be a mother, and not knowing which of two men fathered her child -- turned out to be quite thought-provoking yet also possess what was by far the film’s funniest scene (and one that might well be one of the most hysterical giving birth enactments I have ever had the good fortune to view!).
Multi-stranded movies run the risk of seeming too unfocused.  Multi-star ensembles are liable to have some of their characters feel too under-developed and unnecessary. Multi-director works seem to have a high chance of too many cooks spoiling the broth.  To be sure, CONJUGAL AFFAIRS has faults that include its transitions from one story to another being on the abrupt side along with certain of the film’s characters obviously existing primarily to help define others (and consequently not appearing to be all that three-dimensional).  Alternatively, this (re)viewer actually liked that this offering had the emotional as well as perspectival range that it did because of its bearing the imprint of three different auteurs as well as being less like a conventionally configured work and more of a three part anthology.

My rating for the film:  7.5