Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A Chinese Ghost Story 2011 (倩女幽魂 2011).

...by all honesty I did not know they actually remake the classic 1987 movie. I saw the advert in the cinema page couple of days back, and did not even have the opportunity to read any review. Told Esther I would be going off the see it in the cinema, even though she has had her own reservation pertaining to the overall quality and more importantly, will the remake capture the spirit, so to speak, of Tsui Hark highly memorable version? Sad but true to Esther's prediction, I came out of the cinema kinda disappointed. With Wilson Yip ( 葉偉信) helming the film, whose directorial debut is the excellent 1995's 3-in-1 horror comedy 1.00AM and in between, came up with the superb 2008's Ip Man, with the casts led by an ultra-tan guy called Louis Koo as the taoist Yin Chik Ha (燕赤霞), and re-surging popularity veteran actress Kara Hui (惠英紅) (who won the 2010's 29th HK Film Awards for Best Actress in Malaysian director Ho Yuhang (何宇恒)'s nihilistic At The End Of Daybreak (心魔) for her heartbreaking portrayal of a single mother who went all the way to protect her son) as the 1000 year-old tree demon Lou Lou, it should be alright, right? Wrong. First they tweaked, nay, warped the storyline. What come across as a simple, straightforward forbidden love story between a human and a ghost now becomes a love triangle. According to the world of Wilson, Yin is a demon hunter in love with Nip Siu Sin (Liu Yifei 聶小倩) a fox spirit/vixen (instead of a murdered concubine whose body is buried near the roots of the tree demon). As a trainee, he was assigned to kill the fox spirit but unable to bring about the act after being smitten by the sight of her without a thread on her body. Nip, later ambushed Yin in order to kill him but became interested in/distracted by, of all things, the crab apple candy Yin was carrying at that time. Thus a relationship based on a candy was born. It became serious and physical or metaphysical after that (but of course, the audience in the cinema did not have any opportunity to see any love scene between the two courtesy of the censorship pakciks and makciks). After receiving flak from a fellow demon hunter played by Louis Fan (樊少皇), and causing some of his fellow demon hunters to be killed by Lou Lou, a guilt filled Yip severe their relationship by stabbing Nip on the head with a form of charmed blade with the intention to make her virtually forgetting him and their love affair. And the blade happens to be the only weapon which can destroy the Old Tree Demon. Great. (Prior to that the demon hunters managed to seal/imprison Lou Lou within a pool of waters inside the Orchid Temple). And after bum rushing the audience through the beginning and end of the relationship between Yin and Nip, enter Ning Choi Sun (Yu Shaoqun 寧采臣). This time, Ning is not a tax collector but a sort of engineer who promises a bunch of grubby looking and even uglier villagers headed by Elvis Tsui (村長) to find water source from the nearby Black Mountain (the villagers are suffering from a drought. I guess they are grubby cos they earn their livelihood through clay pot making, and perhaps have not bath in a long time). With a bucktooth guy called, appropriately, Iron Teeth and a bunch of criminals in tow, Ning went up the hill but instead of fetching a pail of water like Jill asked him to, they are lured by some sexy demon ladies (including a pair known as the White Snake and the Green Snake) with some saucy dance moves for a bit of time out fun time at the Orchid Temple. And curiously, the interior of the temple, in stark contrast with the village, is bathed in technicolor, psychedelic even, with a hint of some downtown nightclubs with karaoke vibes. And the GRO-like demon girls know how those men want some Motown action due to their brown-ish, oily bodies emitting some scent. But of course, before the men could get what they want, the ladies sucked out all their energies before it is even spent. But we know Ning would survive coz there would be no story without him and what follows are kind of rehash of the 87 version. How naive he was, how Nip fell in love with him so on and so on (at one point, the love scene between the two is again snipped out by the censors. But honestly by this stage, I no longer care about the story). Until the end when Louis Fan's demon hunter reappears with his anarchist-punk-ish looking sister (Wang Danyi Li 王丹怡慄) to take on Lou Lou. That's because the insipid Ning has earlier indirectly blown the bottom of the pool, thus releasing Lou Lou (as well as also poisoning the villagers with skin disease for drinking the water of which Lou Lou has soaked in for years). During the final battle, Yin has no choice but to pull the plug, I mean, the blade from Nip's head and stab Lou Lou with it. Except prior to that Yin has been swallowed by Lou Lou, and in essence, they are actually sharing the same body. So Yin sacrificed himself to kill off the Old Tree Demon, and Nip, having remembered her first true flame, cried a bucket load but decided to hug the more metro sexual looking, with skin as smooth as a baby's bottom Ning in the end while the hapless and dying Yin gets swallowed by the rickety and collapsing Orchid Temple. But except she decided too, that she will perish with Yin as she believes they could not be together. So Ning and the other two demon hunters survives. But again, except that when Ning is on his way, someone with Yin's voice call out for him and he turns around, smilling at the audience. The end. I am lucky to survive this mess of a remake. By all fairness, these are all capable actors and actresses. Yet, the characters are not as memorable as the '87 version and I find no connection at all with them. Louis Koo's Yip looks schizophrenic as a guy who forces himself to forget Nip and not wanting to confront his true feeling (in fact, the other Louis portrayal of the other demon hunter feels and sounds more like the Yip I come to understand in character). Liu Yifei's Nip and Yu Shaoqun's Nin looks and speaks like two teenagers infatuated instead of in love. Kara Hui's Lou Lou is kind of slightly over the top with her banshee like laughter. The dialogues are flat and the humour doesn't jive at all. Somehow I suspected that perhaps there is a lack of material/script/storyline/plotline for the auteurs to fully flesh out their characters. Which is a pity. I guess the director wants to introduce new and fresh elements to this classic to younger audiences, but maybe comes up with too many choices which only adds to the complexity of the plots and storyline. Just keep it simple, like the old classic. But at least I can rest in assurance that the 1987 version helmed by Tsui Hark (徐克) with the late Leslie Cheung (張國榮), Joey Wong (王祖賢), Wu Ma (午馬) and Lau Siu Ming (劉兆銘) still remains the definitive silver screen version of the short story by writer Pu Songling's Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (聊齋誌異).

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