Wednesday, July 19, 2006

JASMINE WOMEN: Joy Luck for the Ladies

JASMINE WOMEN aka Mo Li Hua Kai (drama)
Cast: Zhang Ziyi, Joan Chen, Jiang Wen, Lu Yi and Liu Ye
Director: Hou Yong
Time: 128 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
Zhang Ziyi as Mo in Jasmine Women
WHAT’S IT ABOUT? There is a Chinese belief that if a particular bad fortune or trait befalls a family over three generations, it would continue throughout all the following generations. This belief is explored in “Jasmine Women”, adapted from a novel by Su Tong, who also wrote the classic tale, Raise The Red Lantern.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? The movie, made in 2004, is divided into three chapters, titled Grandmother, Mother and Daughter. The first opens in Shanghai of the 1930s where we find Mo (Zhang Ziyi) living alone with her mother in a photo studio which is their family business. Mo’s mom (Joan Chen) intends to pass on the business to Mo so that it can help support her family later on. However, this plan is derailed when Mo is picked by a film producer called Mr Meng (Wen Jiang of Warriors Of Heaven And Earth fame), to star in his movie. Mo finds her wildest dreams coming true – until the Japanese invade China and Meng scoots off to Hong Kong. Instead of achieving fame and happiness, Mo is pregnant and broke.
Chapter Two, which picks up 18 years later, finds Mo (now played by Chen) becoming a Mother to Li Li (Zhang again). In China of the Fifties, Li Li falls for the handsome Communist Party member Zou Jie (Lu Yi) and she deserts her mom to marry him. Again, tragedy befalls the young lovers, leaving Mo to fend for their adopted daughter, Hua.
Chapter Three is set in the 1980s and it deals with Hua (Zhang in her third role) marrying her fellow student Di (Liu Ye) and keeping it a secret from Grandma Mo. The old lady has objected to the union, seeing that Di is obviously unsuitable for Hua. Needless to say, Hua ends up pregnant and alone.

HIGHLIGHTS: This directorial debut by Hou Yong is not only a riveting family drama, it is also a work of art. Each chapter shows different façades of bustling Shanghai, and Hou Yong even gives it its own colour palate. Chapter One, for instance, is mainly vibrant green and lilac, Chapter Two is bathed in red to depict communism, and Chapter Three returns to natural green and orange. This has the effect of making scenes of blood (as in abortion, miscarriage and childbirth) stand out ever more strikingly.
However, it is obvious that Jasmine Women is the vehicle of Zhang and Chen and they are at their best here. Zhang manages to separate each of her three roles and gives each its own special characteristics, while Joan Chen tugs at our heart-strings every time she is onscreen. In fact, director Huo Yong seems so enamoured of the performances of his two superstars that he drags the footage to more than two hours.

LOWLIGHTS: The tale could have been told in about 110 minutes, leaving the viewers enough time to dry their eyes and, perhaps, hanker for more…

THE LOWDOWN: A must for mothers and daughters and the legions of Zhang Ziyi fans everywhere. (For booking details, check out


At 12:16 am, Blogger jesscet said...

Hi! I also gave this movie a good review. I thought Zhang Ziyi was brilliant and the way the story was told was rather simple, yet poignant. Like you, i think it's too long though..I was getting a bit restless in the last 20 mins or so. Yep, it should be kept to less than 2 hours!

So guess will see you at Dragon Tiger Gate tomorrow morning! ;)

At 11:22 am, Blogger Lim Chang Moh said...

Hi Jesscet, Had to skip the Dragon Tiger Gate pv cos I had to take my wife's car to the mechanic.
How was it?

At 2:28 am, Blogger jesscet said...

sorry for late reply. i also missed the preview but watched it later to write a review. well, i see u gave it 2 star only. i enjoyed it for the action and the cast ;) but the plot was weak! did u read my review in MM?

At 2:55 pm, Blogger Lim Chang Moh said...

Hi Jesscet,
Yes, I read your review in MM. I had been busy covering the Coliseum saga and I am glad it is all over for Dr Chua. He was very upset last week when I talked to him. Sorry for this late reply. Have been following your exploits on your blog too. Great pictures. God bless.


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