The Allure of Tears
Starring: Zhou Dongyu, Aarif Rahman, Gigi Leung Wing-kei, Richie Jen Hsien-chi, Shawn Dou Xiao
Directed by: Barbara Wong Chun-chun
Category: IIA (Cantonese andPutonghua)
This could be the sudsiest soap opera unleashed upon local screens in 2012. A compilation of three lachrymose tales, the mainland-based melodrama will try the patience, if not the tear ducts, of audiences expecting something a bit edgier from director Barbara Wong Chun-chun.
Whatever one's response to her previous efforts, there's no denying the stamp of Wong's personality and quirky perspective on the Hong Kong scene.
The same goes for scriptwriter Lawrence Cheng Tan-shui, whose dry sense of local humour made The Yuppie Fantasia (1988) a touchstone of its era.
Not so this time in part due to a pallid portrayal of the movie's milieu. While there are views of such unique architectural wonders as Shanghai's Republican-era music conservatory and a beautifully preserved cinema, they come across as pretty facades with as little depth as the emotions enacted by the equally pretty players.
The first chapter is typical, featuring two attractive youths (Zhou Dongyu and Aarif Rahman) who suffer from the type of celluloid cancer that only enhances the sufferer's allure.
The sanitarium in which they over-emote not only puts most resorts to shame but is seemingly available to rich and poor alike.
The movie's 'second tear' is similarly contrived though without fatal consequences for the main stars. Gigi Leung Wing-kei is asked to impersonate a deaf violin virtuoso who, through the encouragement of conservatory sweetheart Richie Jen Hsien-chi, makes a triumphant return to the stage and saves her old school in the process.
It's a situation reminiscent of the Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney 'let's put on a musical' formula, minus show-stopping numbers and a touch of humour to compensate for the schmaltz and foreshadowed finale.
In the third instalment, a tragedy ostensibly set among the working class but with an affected grittiness that defies belief. At the centre is a gorgeous couple (Joe Chen Chiao-en and Shawn Dou Xiao, above left) whose model looks and demeanour fail to gibe with the impoverished surroundings.
Adding to the unreality is a total absence of sexual heat between the lovers, as if the impending misfortune has already taken its toll. In the end, it's a toss-up as to whether cast or critics shed the most tears.
The Allure of Tears opens on March 1