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on 29 January 2008
JASMINE WOMEN is a Chinese chick-flick. A tear-jerker showcasing the top Chinese actress today -- Zhang Ziyi -- playing 3 generations of luckless-in-love young women with Joan Chen (the premiere Chinese actress of almost two decades ago) taking the maternal role to her, whether as mother or grandmother. Evidently, combining the names of the 3 women Zi plays -- Mo, Li, and Hua -- results in the Mandarin word for "Jasmine".

Most of the movie's melodrama didn't move me, in part cuz I ain't a chick. And, in part cuz the script was composed of scenes of short bursts (à la Hollywood's impatient style) which fail to produce dramatic depth.

Still, I got fairly involved in the second story set during the Cultural Revolution when the story took a couple turns that I didn't expect. And I became totally caught up in the film's very intense and very unexpected climax which almost justified the rest of the movie.

At least there were lots of pretty pictures, albeit with a slightly bleached color palette shifting hues with each episode, but still more colorful than today's Hollywood style. With Zi front and center, growing in beauty as the movie progressed, there was nothing to complain about.

In common with Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi is one of the most appealing and potent of actresses ever -- with her child-like beauty, luminous screen presence and sublime acting talent. As usual, she gave it her all thru out the film.

Joan Chen is still stunning and has to be aged by makeup. Unfortunately, she has a fairly marginal role in the first part, but as her roles grow in importance in sections two and three, so does her effectiveness -- altho she remains in the background clearly in support of Zi.

The drama is overall paper thin and, even with the skilled moviemaking technique, is worth 3 stars at best. However, Zi soars above it and earns it an extra one.

The "My Way" DVD has a "making of" featurette -- in Mandarin -- with no English subtitles (???).

(For a fascinating film of the travails of a Chinese family during Mao's reign, try TO LIVE with Gong Li -- the immediate predecessor to Zi as the top Chinese star and almost the star of this film.)
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