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デスパレート 愛されてた記憶 [DVD]
Zhao Wei (赵薇)'s performance was tremendous. I think this was her second best performance in "a movie" other than Hua Mulan (花木兰).
dir. Ann Hui, 2003
Searing love story as well as cop drama 5*
My reaction after one viewing of this film is diametrically opposite that of the other reviewer (Phillip Royer). Though not told in a straight linear fashion, I found the the story line easy enough to follow, and thought it was told well and the choice of flashback narrative appropriate. As to its not "looking nice," well not all films are meant to be pretty; the cinematography seemed appropriate to the theme. [ETA: on a second viewing, the film is actually quite visually attractive, the local color of scenery and indigenous cultures both "pretty" and grittily realistic. I don't know what the other viewer's kvetch was here.] If the hand to hand and gun battle scenes (and recall one of those is a training exercise) are not documentary realistic, well, this isn't a martial arts film. If he finds the scene where she fights off the thugs while holding her infant "disgusting", what would he have her do? They were out to kill her and hers, not take prisoners.
[There may be some spoilers here, but little if anything not told on the DVD cover copy.]
Yang Rui is a playboy, itching in the tight reins of an involvement with Zhongning, his boss's younger sister (or the boss herself, it's a little unclear). His buddy tells him about a beautiful but standoffish new girl, He Yanhong, working at his Tae Kwon Do school, and Rui takes the challenge, to woo her where all others have failed. Her steadfast rejection of his every effort only increases his fascination, until eventually (in a "meet cute" too good to spoil) he admits his defeat, and thence begins to win over Yanhong. Then things go badly, Yang Rui begins to find out about her past, and she disappears, leaving only a long letter that we see in flashback as he reads about the past few years.
An Xi, her true name, had been a star student at the police academy, and champion at Tae Kwon Do, then posted to the remote Nande in Yunnan province, a center of the drug trade. She loves the excitement and camaraderie of the job, but her fiance Tiejun chafes at their separation, with monthly visits by a long train ride, and worries about the dangers of her job. One day while Tiejun is away, she meets and has a brief affair with the cute young Maojie, but neither realizes what the other does -- police officer and drug courier. An operation An Xi takes part in results in Maojie's arrest and his father's death, and he and his brother vow bitter revenge. Tiejun is killed and her boss, the kindly Captain Pan, sends An Xin into hiding along with her son.
We then transition to the present, An Xin back in Nande and Yang Rui on the train there (a mental flashback to Tiejun's trips, both of those in love with An Xi on the same pilgrimage). The denouement is startling yet seemingly inevitable.
One cannot divorce "Goddess of Mercy" from its action flick and police procedural aspects, but it is in essence the story of the love between An Xi and the three men, Tiejun, Maojie and Yang Rui, and the conflict between her love for her job and her personal life. The story is superbly told, with a level of detail that raises it to the truly adult and truly tragic. One of the best films I've seen recently, and one of the best by Ann Hui. Sure, there are nits to pick, but the overall effect is stunning. Vicky Zhao Wei is superb as An Xin, one moment the eager gung-ho recruit, the next poleaxed by events, the next with a glimmering of hope for love and happiness.
I knew in the first fifteen minutes this thing was a mess but I kept the faith, and while it hinted at getting on track from time to time it just kept failing. Someone brought a bucket full of story-boarded scenes to the party but neglected to introduce them to Mr. Story.
You can't just claim that because this isn't run-of-the-mill Hollywood fare that it deserves respect. Good film makers (Ann Hui is one of them) can fail too.