Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Farewell, My Love (1969), starring Julie Yeh Feng and Kwan Shan. Directed by Chin Chien.
In the case of Farewell, My Love, we have a drama with an issue which still holds relevance today: cancer. It's the reason why Jiang Han (Julie Yeh Feng) cannot conceive another child. (The cancer is only characterized as "inoperable", but maybe it's ovarian cancer?) From her diagnosis onward, it becomes anything but a Lifetime movie.
How does she decide to deal with her ailment? By courageously...letting it run its course, not telling any of her friends or family in the process!! That's right; she won't even go for a second opinion, and even the slightest possibility that something can be done to save her doesn't give her inspiration to fight it.
She accepts the fact (and a prescription for pain pills) she's only months to live; in the time remaining, she must find a woman to take her place as a wife to her architect spouse, Shimin (Kwan Shan, Police Story 2), and as a mom to her daughter, Lingling (Niu Niu, The Brave Archer 2).
As luck would have it, her husband recently hired an assistant, a pretty young lady with some emotional baggage of her own, Chuchu (Jenny Hu, Love Without End); she performs well at her job, but no one knows why she keeps a distance from the male co-workers who are attracted to her. Shimin thinks she's a touch strange; even so, Jiang Han quickly befriends her, not only inviting her to Shimin's birthday party, but also finding out why she is as morose as she is.
Chuchu's a widow; after a rough childhood, her husband was the only one who truly gave her love and affection, and his fatal car crash has left her isolated and lonely. With the passage of time, Chuchu practically becomes part of the family, even showing a fondness for Lingling to the point of giving her piano lessons. It doesn't take much longer before Jiang Han thinks Chuchu may be the suitable replacement for her. In fact, she's soon told by Chuchu that she's going to quit her job because she's fallen in love with Shimin!
Realizing her odd turn of good fortune, Jiang Han manages to stop her from quitting and keeps her around as a family friend; perfect timing, as it turns out, with the cancer beginning to drain out the life that's left in her. Shimin finally learns about Jiang Han's condition shortly before they go off on a trip to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary; they eventually depart, letting Chuchu stay at the house to care for Lingling, Shimin not knowing if he will return with Jiang Han alive.
After that, I do not think I need to tell you how it ends; you may be right about the basics, but the way things exactly finish up would catch you unawares!
Farewell, My Love would rate more highly to me had I not previously seen an earlier Shaw release, Susanna (1967, directed by Ho Meng-hua), prior to this; I'm glad I did, because its quality shows how much FML is but a half-baked rip-off, despite good performances.
In Susanna, the teenaged title character (Li Ching, King Eagle) has a terminal brain cancer; like in FML, she tells no one until her time is nearly up, all the while trying to tie up as many loose ends in her life before she passes on. The movie even has in the cast actors who later turn up in FML: Kwan Shan, Niu Niu and Fang Mien (King Boxer), who plays a doctor in both films!
The big difference between the two movies is the script for Susanna is more cohesive and less riddled with holes than the one concocted for FML, where plot lines are only carried so far only to just move the story along with no tidy conclusions brought to any of them.
While fighting cancer in 1969 was a real uphill battle on many fronts, compared to now, I still could not believe Jiang Han giving up so easily; considering her spouse was a well-paid architect, and the family lived in a mansion with servants, I know Shimin had enough money (and health insurance) that an attempt to save his wife (or prolong her living, if only for weeks or months) could be done. (Susanna, with her brain cancer, had an arguably lesser chance for survival. Whether she had told her family or not about it, I believed her to be terminal, so her story's more plausible than anything in FML.)
Mainly, the purpose for this movie's existence was to showcase the talents of Julie Yeh Feng, a Hong Kong actress whose twelve-year run in films was ending in an early retirement. She had previously spent half of that time with the Cathay Organisation (Our Sister Hedy, 1957; Air Hostess, 1959) before finishing with Shaw. (Her 1964 Shaw debut,The Warlord and the Actress, was scripted by Chang Cheh.) She's a long way past the time when International Screen Magazine once referred to her as the "Kim Novak of the East", but once you get by the '60s hair and fashions in this (older pin-up shots of her, found on the Soft Film blog, are eye-popping), she's still quite attractive and does a fine job of acting, script be damned.
Jenny Hu comes off as an Audrey Hepburn type with a low-key performance that gradually blossoms as Chuchu comes out of her shell. Really, all the cast does work superior to the uninspired script they were given. (Any fans of the Shaw martial arts films will want to watch for Chuan Yuan, who'd go on to do movies like The Lady Hermit, Vengeance! and The Thunderbolt Fist, in an early role as this movie's only [lame] comedy relief.)
The IVL DVD is another nice example of Celestial Pictures' restoration efforts with a clean, anamorphic picture, very good sound and decent English subs; this cannot be disputed!
Unless you're a Julie Yeh Feng fan who wants all of her movies currently available on DVD, there's no good reason for anyone else to get FML; the other performers featured here were in films better than this, and you should try seeking out (and spending your money on) those ones, including Susanna!
Keeping it trivial....
Fang Shih-yu, Shaolin Temple.
P.S. - Purchase it from Play-Asia by clicking on here.