Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Chinese Ghost Story

Casts : Louis Koo, Liu Yifei, Louis Fan, Yu Shaoqun, Kara Hui, Wang Danyi

A remake of the 1987 Hong Kong popular fantasy romantic horror A Chinese Ghost Story starring the late Leslie Cheung, Joey Wong and Wu Ma (the original movie was produced by Tsui Hark). The plot was adapted from a short story taken from Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (Liaozhai Zhiyi), a collection of nearly five hundred ancient Chinese supernatural tales, written by Pu Songling during the early Qing Dynasty. This remake is directed by Wilson Yip, a director who boosted Donnie Yen’s career through Ip Man & Ip Man 2 (the two guy also collaborated in three other martial arts movies with Yen in it, SPL: Sha Po Lang, Dragon Tiger Gate and Flash Point).

The original movie was very popular in Asian back in 1987. People liked the romantic ghost story between the human and the demon, as well as the two charming and attractive main leads, the singer-actor Leslie Cheung and the beautiful Joey Wong as the ghost. The film ended up with two sequels in 1990 & 1991, and it set a trend of folklore ghost movies in the Hong Kong film industry at that time. The original movie also received a dozen of nominations in the Hong Kong Film Awards and won three of them. It will be difficult for a remake to top a popular movie like this. If we talk about the originality and the charismatic of the two main stars, well, this remake didn’t top the original. And if we compare the two films, then this movie may always fall under the shadow of the original. However, despite some unfavorable that people may have towards this remake, for me this is a pretty decent film that stands on its own. And I have to say that I liked and enjoyed the movie more than I expected.

This 2011 remake (also known as A Chinese Fairy Tale) tells a slightly different story and backgrounds, even though the myth and the main characters are the same. Yan Chixia (Louis Koo) is a great demon hunter until he breaks the forbidden rule and falls in love with a beautiful demon Nie Xiaoqian (Crystal Liu Yifei). On knowing that a human and a ghost cannot live together and their romance will never have a good end, he decides to end their relationship by wiping their romance memory out of the demon’s mind with a magical mind wipe, and makes her totally forget about him.

But the history seems to roll all over again when a young scholar Ning Caichen (Yu Shaoqun), journeying to the Black Mountain to help a town finding a water source to end their drought, meets with Nie Xiaoqian and they fall in love, even though the demon wants to kill him at the beginning. But there is no easy way for their romance, as the Tree Demon (Kara Hui), the strongest evil power in the mountain, despises humanbeing and will never let Xiaoqian go. At the other hand, Yan Chixia, the demon hunter, also tries to separate them with every possible way he could, as he knows their romance is doomed to fail, as what he experienced before with Xiaoqian. But will a true love finally overcome the human’s forbidden crossover into the world of the ghosts?

The main difference with the original movie is, while the original focused on the love story between the scholar and the ghost (and nothing about the demon hunter and the demon itself), this remake spiced the story with the love triangle between the demon hunter, the ghost and the scholar. It was a bald’s moves actually taken from the director Wilson Yip and the screenwriter to make something different out of an already familiar tale, which some people may accept and some may not. But if we see this movie in its own ground, it’s still a fun and entertaining movie, which story and ghost fantasy atmosphere we can enjoy, disregard how cheesy you might feel about the story. More actions, funny at times, and lots of CGI, with the movie budget of US$ 20 million.

Leslie Cheung and Joey Wong from the original movie were hard to beat, as their images and charisma will always be correlated when talking about A Chinese Ghost Story. Cheung was a legend in the industry (he died tragically in 2003 on suicide at age 46). He was one of the greatest canto-pop singers Hong Kong ever has. And he was a fine actor too. It will not be easy for whoever that plays his character as the scholar in the remake. And Yu Shaoqun didn’t play it bad actually, he looked more naive though, but he was definitely overshadowed by our fond memories of Leslie Cheung.

The ghost role in the original movie help uplifted the career and stardom of Joey Wong, the character she will always be remembered. Maybe the most beautiful, elegant and sexy ghost ever existed in the Hong Kong movie history. Even though also overshadowed by the aura of Joey Wong, I liked Crystal Liu Yifei (the girl from The Forbidden Kingdom) in this movie. I think she played her character as the ghost well. Not as sexy as the appearance of Joey Wong in the original, but she is also beautiful, seductive and very lovable, which will make human guys fight for her love. While as the demon hunter, Louis Koo gave a different interpretation to his character as has been shown by Wu Ma in the original, and much younger. Louis Fan Siu-Wong from the Ip Man series also appeared as another demon hunter here, who has unsettled hatred towards Louis Koo’s character.

In overall, I am having quite a good time with this movie. Not a perfect movie as it has its flaws, and this is not a kind of movie you should take too seriously at. But if you want to see a Chinese fairy tale with beautiful ghost in it without being scared, and enjoy some sweet human and ghost romance out of it, plus some actions, then this is the movie. The theme song at the beginning and the end of the movie, sang by the great Leslie Cheung, will flush us with nostalgia and make us remember of him.

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