IF you’ve never seen or heard of the 1987 Chinese Ghost Story, this revamp is a solid 7/10 C movie offering if supernatural period CGI epic is your thing. Out of kindness, I’m not posting my real rating. I’m a fangirl of the 87 retelling of ‘Nie Xiao Qian’ fr the famous collection of supernatural folklore Strange Tales From a Chinese Studio by Qing writer Pu SongLing. I’m allergic to CGI, more so when it takes away precious screen time/budget of storytelling ie the case in point here.
When I was watching it in the theatre, its 1987 original release, the experience was not unlike my first visit to MoMA…or Granny Liu’s first tour of the Red Mansion in Dream of Red Chamber, or LYF’s XiaoQian (who is in all honesty a fox who can transform into a girl manga style and her Achilles’ heels is she has a sweet tooth) in a candy store *snerk*. The 1987 original, every frame, around every corner, it’s sth brand new to my tawdry eyes. The costumes are Issey Miyake inspired and nth of the gilded classical fussy embroideries. The love story is romanticized in the 80s tone of grandiose: direct, bold, simple and intense, OTT passionate. Off tangent a bit, one of the most memorable exhibit I’ve been to, it’s Picasso curated right next to another piece of painting it had inspired. I’m unversed in abstract modern art, am solely a superficial admirer, yet 100% of the time, I can spot the Picasso next to its likeness. Art, speaks to us intrinsically like that. This 2011, is a not worthy fake.
I know the game of PD Wilson Yip. I do get entertained by him as the commercial director. I’ve read his interview on his remake of the Chinese Ghost Story ( it’s official Eng title is Chinese Fairy Tale) just now. http://news.sina.com.tw/article/20110423/4361102.html nth surprising.
He put his brute towards his ambition, the intent, the choices he made in eloquent wrappings. True to form, he set out to do a commercially successful movie, with every careful calculation. Yes, it’s a tribute to Leslie and the classic 87 Chinese Ghost Story. Proud is he, he didnt milk it (not!) by announcing to the world we’ll be having an In Memoriam black screen as our very last frame to the music of Leslie’s Theme Song. Classy (notttt!), they are!
And the frame prior, ie the very last frame of movie proper, this:
Our new cute hero, always cheery and gay, smiling wholesomely at us, towards the camera, donning Leslie’s exact costume or ‘paying tribute’ they say. No, he’s not alarmed some random lady to the voice of his buddy XiaoQian is calling him out of nowhere when he’s JUST walking away fr her devastating dying in a hot fire.
PD Yip: No, it’s nothing like The Chinese Ghost Story, we’re The Chinese Fairy Tale! I’m just out to make an entertaining solid movie that ppl will generally like, some moved. That’s about it. A romance between one guy and one girl is so boring this day and age, to spice it up, lets have a love triangle. No, we’re not pulling inspiration fr prostitutes in the brothels for our XiaoQian like the 87 adaptation did. this is BRAND NEW, she’s a pure as virgin snow foxy fairy, not a slick of rouge, hair unkept swirling in the wind always (to please the wind machine goddess! oh the meta on our HXM’s Guo Er and his bff windmachine fairy, in the presence of The Guo Er in RoCH95, Louis Koo’s Yin, the demonbuster here looking like the GuoEr after the 16 yr abstinence fr sex and some more time off demonslashing to romance our pure as first snow fox XiaoQian/ ie HXM’sGuoEr’s goddess XLN all these lifetimes/characters/TV dramas/Cmovies apart!). She’s in sanitized white gauze most of the movie for heaven’s sake! Our innocent just so happens to be enslaved at a brothel, day (night) job is seducing dudes who totally deserved to get sucked out of their brains **SNERK** See the 2 times she’s fallen are with Candymen *ROFLAMO! Seriously she fell for guys giving her candy, a fox demon, and candy* not coz she really knows the birds and the bees. No wait, she does know, teasing all double entendre the REAL innocent Ning… Me: nonono wait, he must be gay, my gaydar is BLASTING!! Wait more, don’t tell me PD Yip, you intentionally makes Ning uncanon gay to pay tribute to Leslie, coz that’s extremely poor taste… oh but wait, questionable taste and you Wilson are married match made in hell. PD Yip: my exact words are, ppl will walk out of the theater, seeing Yu’s Ning happy face, with Leslie singing echoing in their ears and moved to tears in his fond memory. That’s my tribute. Me: sad tears, I have plenty, but more imminent than crying my eyes out, so I wanna stick a fat one in your face and one more to wipe that sillyass smile off that retard Ning.
Confused?! I’m right there with you.
Lets talk more about Miss Liu YuFei, shall we? In all fairness, she’s put in 100% effort, this is no walk in the park with all the wirework. She’s improved in her physical acting. When she cries, tears flow fluidly. Her kisses, meaty smooches. Now the allure of sth as pure as distilled water, the innocent fairylike pretty girl next door to the fanboys, undeniable. I totally get it. But to a nonfanboy, other than the CGI’d cats eye, I don’t see the supernatural irresistible seductiveness in her XiaoQian. There’s a strained, connect the dots overthinking in all the intimate scenes. To me, this is her Chinese Paladins’ Zhao Ling’er redux, a few years older, knowing her birds and bees….yet still faking like the naive 16 yo debutante fitting into heels 2 sizes too large. She grimaced and I wonder if she’s just pouting for her next piece of candy, literally, instead of what it’s supposed to convey…the inner turmoil of a kindhearted fox demon made to suck the living hell of the guys to feed her Tree Demon(ness) master while bedding them somewhat. She ‘falls for every guy giving her candies’, her lines, not mine. Yes, a bonus if the dude is all proper and not into her pants (ie gay) for a romp by the treetrunk, but girlfriend, for all we know he most probably is….’not that into you’ . Anybody cares to give more depth into the romance…as in their literary minds harmonized to the same tune in every other adaptation?!?! Nope. Just put them in scenes of close proximity and lots of skinship and we’ll call it the revamped romance. Yeah with some skinship we’re ready to hallelujah to the epicness of till death do us part human/demon forbidden LOVE!
She’s a foxy spirit that’s never been a human, out is them connecting over paintings and poetry, or her feeling all that fluttering a human lady should feel in the arms of a man with the face of Leslie. In Chinese Fairy Tale, I got them hitting the 2nd base then 3rd, but there’s no sexual tension, more like clumsy highschoolers kinda curious and hormonal. Yet, our XQ has to lure the pervie dudes exactly the same way as her predecessors to feed her slaveboss Tree Demon(ness), I assume on a nightly feeding schedule or often enough?!. So….what’s the point of making her all innocent?! What’s the point of the XQ/Ning romance if it’s not going deeper and why trading the artistic license of the tale of a ghost with human trappings for censorship and giving us a sicko animal planet (we also have snake demoness, sexy bosomy ones)?! Excuse my ignorance, the intention of them making truckloads of cash is not a concern of mine. So is creativity and art and our sentiments as viewers bear no interest to the makers of this movie. I do not blame the actors, they are all trying their best. There must be blind fanboys out there claiming this is A masterpiece of LYF’s best acting job to date. They can have it. There’s sth very asexual with LYF on screen, and when she has to play a seductress as a living, bedding men for survival, it is so befuddled and contradictory to her screen presence. She’s more staunch than Yu’s Ning and LYF is giving her XQ this blunt line delivery throughout in an attempt to play up the animalistic instinct of a foxy fairy.
This can all be explained, her OTP is our handsome manly (with BEARD!) Demonbuster!! It’s not hard at all to guess Louis Koo will have a romantic thread with XQ. As with all the other characters in the movie, this is so off canon unlike the original. Wu Ma’s act in the 87 adaptation is perfect. He had that AMAZINGBALLS DaoDaoDao rap song. The most brilliant piece of OST imho in HK cinema. With one short minute, it conveyed the character’s every nuance, a free spirit of his own, he’s lost in this world of humans and demons, good or evil being a murderer running fr the law. On the brink of rapturous insanity (not unlike the romance of our main couple the 87 remake), few drinks too many, he’s basking in the Daoism doctrine he’s practicing, yet overwhelmed by the measly one man’s effort against the overwhelming, hazy murky milieu. And it’s exactly the ghost heroine and the human hero pure passionate heck it all romance that sold this jaded, conflicted man into their aid against the big baddie. The rap is about Ways, the phrase for ‘vagina’/lower evil realms is shouted in the same breath of Cha Ji/Cha Dao/Tea ceremony. It must’ve also stroke a chord with Tsui Hark back then, at the crossroad artistically, he’s frustrated with the bottleneck of his creativity and succumbed to remaking an adaptation that’s speaking to him emotionally.
And what do we have with our Louis’ Yin. A regular Joe in those days, armed with a bit of Daoism influenced kung fu and a sword, made ‘human’ by falling for a candy loving pretty girl/animal. Then he turned into a sappy lovelorn invalid after he stabbed her memory of him and their tryst out of her head, with a sword.. I miss the Ning/Yin bromance. Here, I can’t shake for once Yin is asking Ning to stay away out of The jealous ex factor instead of genuinely moved, nor care about that wussy upright scholar’s well being around blood sucking demons.
And I’m supposed to regard him as a hopeless romantic. I’m hopeless and easily sold, yes, but practical. Do you go into this line of work if you have no defense against some little pretty fox with no amazing magic tricks?! He’s hailed as a kickass demonbuster, top of his trade, I fear for his fellow colleagues with lesser abilities than him. If he loves his XQ this very much, why is he living so close to her demon mistress and not doing much except mopping and slopping around?! What exactly triggers him regaining his demonbustermanlihood?!?! HIS eternal love for his OTP!? Did HE get a memory loss we’re untold of?! All ranted and done, this is any soapy love triangle that needs no element of the supernatural. The romance is there to push the plot along, and the plot is there for pretty amazing CGI fights.
So my last fist pump of a question: Where’s the FAIRY TALE?!??