1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You either love or hate this film, I absolutely LOVED it
As with all true masterpieces, you either love or hate this film. I have read all of the reviews for this film on Amazon.com and IMDB (Internet Movie Database) and one thing stands out: All of the reviewers either pointed out what a piece of trash this movie was, or were totally and completely entralled with it's cinematographic spendor. I must confess that I fall...
Published on May 7 2000 by Bawko
1.0 out of 5 stars boring pointless film which even I had trouble enjoying
I know it's a bit old, but I just want to warn people away from watchinga potential waste of film called "Chinese Box." I was expecting a more entertaining movie, or at least a movie with some point to it (give the director's past productions like "Joy Luck Club"), but instead we get a rated-R film which doesn't even merit a PG-13 rating...
Published on Aug. 5 1999
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You either love or hate this film, I absolutely LOVED it,
As with all true masterpieces, you either love or hate this film. I have read all of the reviews for this film on Amazon.com and IMDB (Internet Movie Database) and one thing stands out: All of the reviewers either pointed out what a piece of trash this movie was, or were totally and completely entralled with it's cinematographic spendor. I must confess that I fall into the latter category. I have watched literally thousands of movies in my life (average of 10 per week) and I have to admit that most of them have been forgotten. It is for movies like Chinese Box that I wade through the endless sea of mediocre and just plain pointless films, on the off chance that I will find a jewel in the rough. I feel that Chinese Box is one of the true jems, I would place it in my top 3 list. For those who have experienced the truly memorable experiences (both good and bad) that life can throw at those who REALLY think and care, this movie is for you ! It will dredge all of the past meloncholic feelings out of your subconscious mind and shatter your everyday demeanor. I found myself in tears at the beautiful conclusion of this film, something that only 1 other movie (Bladerunner) has ever been able to accomplish. I have never in my life viewed a motion picture that so perfectly captures the essence of the human condition. All in all, I would say that this is one of the few films I will ever watch again and again, and ever time that I view it will bring exquisite new meaning to this most meaningful piece of art. No, correct that, this MASTERPIECE of cinematography.
5.0 out of 5 stars Chinese Director Films His Hometown With A Clear Eye,
By A Customer
I like this film for it's brilliant depiction of the city of Hong Kong. Visually, it's a treat for the eyes. A great depiction of the city by a director who grew up there before making it in the First World (the dream of all talented Hong Kong Chinese is to get out of Hong Kong). Here is both the busy British Colony and the tragic Chinese refugee centre in clear, sharp focus. Not the tourist bureau image, but the Hong Kong seen by a Chinese with the confidence to show it all. Here are the miles of shabby forty-story concrete tower blocks, the rude public behaviour, the jeering "older" refugees making fun of the newer arrivals from China, here's the polluted water, the giant rats in the poor quarters, here are all those drink-sodden western "remittance men" businessmen, and there's the crass world of Chinese property developers (the not- exactly-stylish-basis of Hong Kong's wealth). Here's the Chinese refugee girl who speaks terrible English (brilliantly played by Gong Li) here are her rude fellow refugees jeering at her for her wrong-side-of-the-tracks accent. The abysmal public behaviour that Hong Kong is so (in)famous for is well-captured by Wang - parts of the film look like a movie version of Bo Yang's book *The Ugly Chinaman and the Crisis in Chinese Culture,* which so many expats read to help understand the things that cause them culture shock in Hong Kong - here, visually, is a depiction of that utter insecurity that is so strong in a place overwhelmed by millions of Chinese refugees in the last several decades.
Brilliant how Wang captures the rude bluntness of life in a city whose effervesence is the frantic rush of desperate folk trying to survive, having escaped from China. For viewers who have lived in Hong Kong and moved on (Western and Chinese), the ending will seem like the signature definition of Hong Kong - nothing has changed, everything is just going to go on and on and on, with more noise, more heat, more spitting refugees & drunken losers from the West always staying on; this or that person can die, but there will always be a Hong Kong for the types of souls who inhabit it.
In terms of the cinematography, this is a brilliant, blunt honest take on a city proverbial for tragedy, for making a buck any-harsh-old-how, and for hustling with the truth (bear this in mind when reading those reviews here by long-term Hong Kong residents who say the *depiction* of the city and it's inhabitants [as opposed to the overall quality of the film] is "incorrect" - and try Bo Yang's book, banned in China).
Simply in terms of the story-line, far better than this film are two Hong Kong novels - Paul Theroux's *Kowloon Tong* is a Grahame Greene/Saul Bellow style observation set at the Handover - very accurate, too. Timothy Mo's *The Monkey King* depicts the trials and tribulations of an eccentric Hong Kong Chinese family - I felt I met or saw these people again and again while living in HK in the 90s.
But the story itself is secondary here - watch *Chinese Box* for the depiction of the city itself. Here's what happened to the tropical lush- green port depicted in 1967's *The World of Suzy Wong.* Here's what Hong Kong's like today - a kind of Pittsburgh on the South Seas, and Wang captures it all. Thanks to him for filming this treat for the eyes - and spare a thought for all those unfortunate Chinese refugees who define so thoroughly what Hong Kong the city is.
4.0 out of 5 stars misunderstood,
Among the crop of Chinese filmmakers known in the US, Wayne Wang is by far the most intellectual. While some of his works were received warmly (say "Smoke" and "Blue in the Face"), many accused Wang of being over sentimental or even downright exploitative (think "Joy Luck Club") .
Picking a place to stand with the film is an interesting position. For this viewer, "Chinese Box" is a fascinating, if flawed piece of "masterwork".
Local Chinese in Hong Kong were largely unable to understand the film, citing Wang fabricated facts (such as the demonstration students setting themselves on fire, or the suicide shooting at the club to protest the Chinese Handover) while the whole affair was directed at a foreign (international) market. The gweilos (the expats in Hong Kong) hated it because they were portrayed as arrogant, self-serving prospectors, and there to make a quick buck.
Wang's vision is unique, for the simple fact that this is someone who's brought up in Hong Kong, then migrated to the US. He returned to Hong Kong later on to work for a brief period, but (understandably) left again to continue his career.
Before "Chinese Box", Wang made an independent feature "Life is cheap...but toilet paper is expensive" and it was a wild rollercoaster ride of the Hong Kong. Cutting and uncompromising, cynical yet laced with touches of poignancy, the film could not have made been made by anyone from Hong Kong. "Chinese Box" is, in many respect, the sequel. Placed side by side, the two films echo
the scarred history of Hong Kong.
I love "Chinese Box" because Wang speaks about the gulfs between East and West that are never acknowledged. It touches on the narrowmindedness of much of the locals and the expat community.
Wang fabricates some of the facts on the Handover for the simple reason it was a media event. Truth can be oliberated and fiction can easily be made up and printed. There's a nice bit where the photogenic Gong Li imitates Dietrich on the television, miming and reenacting her stage gestures. The reunion scene between Maggie Cheung and her former school sweetheart is akward and look exceeding uncomfortable on the screen. Yet, it is absolutely spot on and made sense.
Don't watch this film as some piece of Asian exotica or Orientalist kitsch. Wang's thinking is far ahead of other directors like John Woo or even Ang Lee (much I think highly of Lee). Wang presents a reality of Hong Kong that few dares to admit.
4.0 out of 5 stars Stuck in the middle,
Chinese box is a very interesting film. First of all a Wayne Wang film (remember eat a bowl of rice ? a film portrayed the Chinese immigrants life in US and excellent movie smoke as a result of his cooperation with Auster) that is set in Hong Kong and includes excellent performances by Irons, Li, and Cheung . Secondly it is based on the time period which was extremely important as well as worrying for many Asian people. It marked the end of British rule and unification with China. Film focuses on those days with an impossible love story between Irons and Li.
Film has full of images and tales about the people of Hong Kong and their way of living, power politics and market scale as well as the difference of eastern and western people in their way of thought and living. Irons' impossible love for Li and her struggle between two man, are represented throughout the film in a different way and thus forcing to make the viewer try to understand or at least make him/her to be as objective as it is possible on making judgements on Asian life. Western people has problems with understanding Asian mind and way of living and unfortunately only very few people really tries to do. As portrayed in Irons character, he tries to understand the people and the city over a decade but fails because in his words everything is changing so fast.(Maybe like many westerners suggest, it is rather a difficult task and since you have the best (!) of it why sweat it ?)
Wang draws the picture of city in one hand a fast moving, modern Asian city full of local and foreign businesscholics.Caught in the middle , on one hand trying to stay as traditional it can be but on the other hand trying to look , live and feel as a western democracy. There are many symbols and signs showing this as fish market, mah jong, family relationships as well as the businessman with mobile phones and blasting western flavoured music, scarred cheung and the running dog prepared to fight by the owner etc. Lions offers a solid performance and Li suceeds to come up with goods as it is her most difficult role so far portraying such an untraditional character. Cheung continues to rise with the young, hip but a bit of a desperate character.
This movie is not an easy, let's go type of film. As I mentioned, Wang tries to make us understand the way of life, thinking as well as the identity clashes in people who lives in this fascinating neon city. So viewer has to force his/hers mind to de code the symbols and icons which tells a lot to the viewer about the situation.
Basicly film is called Chinese box and it is a chinese box indeed. It expects you to open and solve it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Look Harder; You Have To Think,
Somewhere I read--I don't even know if it was in relation to this movie--that if you've never loved a woman you couldn't have, you won't understand this movie. This is a more than reductive introduction. I can begin by saying that this is one of the most thoughful and intelligent movies about the new internationalism that I have seen, but that sounds like a blurb. Irons is a man whose unconsumatable love for his adopted Hong Kong is embodied in his love for Gong Li's character, just as gong Li's character suffers from a love of the west that cannot escape old collonial cliches of bondage and subordination. So that's a pretty concise summary of the "significance" of each character, so what? By using the romantic metaphor, Wang manages to peel away a layer from our true international obsessions (at the heart of which is possession) and gambits. There are no flattering portraits in this movie: the west tries to use Asia for a quick buck, while Asia tries to use the west for a type of legitimacy. Unfortunately, the actions of the west have estranged it from itself (Irons being estranged from his family), while the attempts to embrace the west isolate the Asian from Asia (Gong Li's inability to climb up the Hong Kong social register). This is just a scratch. 1000 words can't do this very well done movie (except for the strangely lo-tech computer graphics title sequence) justice. You have to think. The movie's there, but you have to think.
1.0 out of 5 stars boring pointless film which even I had trouble enjoying,
By A Customer
I know it's a bit old, but I just want to warn people away from watchinga potential waste of film called "Chinese Box." I was expecting a more entertaining movie, or at least a movie with some point to it (give the director's past productions like "Joy Luck Club"), but instead we get a rated-R film which doesn't even merit a PG-13 rating. They stuck in some cussing just to make the movie rated-R.
The people mumble all the time, making their words hard to understand (I am a native speaker of English, by the way.) The DVD-version is letterboxed 4:3 instead of 16:9 widescreen anamorphic (ok, ok, this is a minor technical quibble.) And the characters are so loserly I lost interest in their stupid past (which was probably self-inflicted anyway) within less than 3 minutes.
On a brighter side, the title "chinese box" reminded me of an old Simpsons episode where Bart's class gets to see "The Box Factory." Well therea re many parallels here. "The Box Factory" was a place where boxes are made, many boxes, and box-related products. Next door to this important box-making factory was Krusty's studio. Needless to say, I found my mind wandering from "Chinese Box" over to Krusty's Studio, even though there is no logical link between these two different shows. Whenever I see the words "Chinese Box", the words "Chinese BOX FACTORY!" scream through my head!!!!
Also, I thought Hong Kong returned to China July, 1998...so why was this movie set in 1997?!? (I probably missed a lot of dialogue that explained this, maybe the director should hire a more competent sound-production crew.)
2.0 out of 5 stars A real shame to put Gong Li in this predicament,
'Chinese Box' attracted me through a fairly interesting looking trailer. I couldn't have been more disappointed with the movie itself. Jeremy Irons, Ruben Blades, Gong Li - these three characters are somehow close, but they interact as if they're from three separate universes. They're certainly not helped by the script (what the heck is this about anyway?), Wayne Wang's sloppy direction or his choppy, disjointed storyline.
Gong Li is worthy of particular note. Perhaps China's greatest working actress, I've gotta think that Wang was so infatuated with the idea of having her in his film that he manufactured a way around her (at the time) very limited English. Her very few lines have the feel of being pieced together via phonetics. As a result, the supposed intense relationship between she and Irons' character is real stretch to envision. It's a real shame that many viewers will get their intro to Gong Li in this fashion. She deserves far better.
2.0 out of 5 stars A Interesting Failure of a Film!,
The idea was there. A film about the change over of Hong Kong from British to PRC rule. The casting was there too. Jeremy Irons, Gong-Li, and Maggie Cheung. This was a film I looked forward to, understood very well, but was ultimately disappointed.
The symbolism is great. The dying Jeromy Irons represents British rule. The scarred but always optimistic Maggie Cheung is the people of Hong Kong. Again, this was a clever idea and props to that, but the film often just wanders and drags.
Also disappointing was Gong-li. Gong-li is one of the most gifted actresses in China. She is fantastic. However, her poor English really hurts her performance. She has given many powerful performances in her native language and it was painful to watch her struggle in a English film. Gong-li is great and should not rush to make anymore American films.
So again the films concept is great but the finished product is a noble failure.
3.0 out of 5 stars a place called home,
I watched this film by "accident." One night I turned on the TV and "The Chinese Box" movie was on. I watched it because it is a film about Hong Kong. The story is only average, not too excited but close enough to real life. However, some scenes are unreasonable exaggerated. For instance, two customers drank and talked about the northern girl in a very bad slang. Their attitudes were so rude. They embarrassed Gong Li because she is from the northern part of China. I hope that the audience who watched this film do not have an impression that the Hong Kong people are rude. It is not turth. Generally speaking, most Hong Kong people are polite and conservative. The photographers did a very good job. They successfully depicted the lankmarks of Hong Kong, including the City Hall, The Shanghai and Hong Kong Corporation Banking Headquarter, Mandarin Hotel, Temple Street, Mongkok, Central District, etc.
4.0 out of 5 stars A quiet but memorable film...,
I say "quiet" because, as other reviewers have noted, it was slow. Still, that didn't bother me. I was drawn into it, and if the story itself seemed weak, the characters and setting were not. Jeremy Irons played the role he plays best -- a man obsessed with one who is "forbidden," and in this case, it's the city as much as the woman that draws him. Gong Li and Maggie Cheung both gave memorable performances as well, and the seduction-scene between Li and Irons is both tender and titillating. I also want to praise the soundtrack. The sequences by Graeme Revell, featuring "Dadawa," were haunting and evocative, and I ended up buying the soundtrack soon after I saw the movie. You may find the movie dull if you're expecting action or high drama, but its voyeuristic feel, the underlying love story, and the actors themselves make the film worthwhile.
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Chinese Box (Widescreen) [Import] by Wayne Wang (DVD - 2003)
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