Review of Love in the City (男才女貌; China, 2007), A Beida Xingguang Investment Co. & Beijing Xingguang International Media Co. production
Director: Ma Chucheng
Producer: Stanley Tong (Tang Jili)
Cinematographer: Chen Guoxiong
Screenplay: Yang Qianling
Editor: Kuang Zhiliang
Art Design: Li Weiming
Music: Zhao Zengxi
Lighting: Wang Suiquan
Cast: Shawn Yue (Yu Wenle), Gao Yuanyuan, Takuya Suzuki, Naoko Miyake
Running time: 95 MIN.
Release in China: Jan. 8, 2007.
Shaoyi’s Rating: C- (Poor)
Nothing is unexpected in this “love will conquer anything”-themed film: boys meet girls, boys date girls, and boys live happily with girls. Of course, boys must overcome some hurdles before they can melt into the sweet tenderness of the girls. In Love in the City, these “hurdles” are both contrived and childish. Perhaps being “childish” is exactly what the director was after, since the film might only have a slight appeal to those young and madly-in-love couples.
The story takes place not so much in a city (I don’t know where the English title comes from), but in a small-town in Yuannan, a suddenly hot spot for Chinese filmmaking (Zhang Yimou’s Riding Alone…, Liu Jie’s Courthouse on the Horseback, and Zhu Wen’s South of the Clouds, to name just a few). Shawn Yue (Yu Wenle, Infernal Affairs) from Hong Kong and Gao Yuanyuan (Shanghai Dreams) from mainland China play a local cop and a kindergarten teacher with speaking difficulties respectively. It seems the cop does nothing but only stands at the same crossroad everyday to direct the almost non-existent traffic. This is where he meets his object of desire, the kindergarten teacher. The two quickly falls in love, with the cop following his girl all the way to a “Peach Blossom”-like place, where he encounters the girl’s father, who adamantly refuses to accept him and orders him to leave the girl. It later turns out that the girl is not supposed to have a baby, because she has a heart problem and her mother died immediately after she gave birth to the girl. This is where her father’s objection comes from. But the girl is pregnant and decides to have the baby against her husband and father’s will. Miraculously, at the end of the film, she is not only alive, having a healthy baby, but also able to speak like a normal person. Love eventually wins.
Japanese actors Takuya Suzuki and Naoko Miyake play the second couple in the film. Like the first couple, the two fall in love at the first sight on a movie set and the half-Chinese, half-Japanese guy, who actually shares the same mother with the cop, looks quite desperate after the Japanese actress returns to Japan. However, the Naoko character comes back after she wins the Best Actress award in China. This time, he does not want to hide his emotion anymore. They run into each other again and the Japanese girl decides to stay with him in China for the rest of her life.
I don’t know if it’s because I am too old to understand the feelings of the young couples, but these two intersected love stories are just too shallow to me, sometimes even laughable, which I think is not what the director wanted to convey in the first place. With familiar stars like Shawn Yue and Gao Yuanyuan, the film was meant to be a crowd-pleaser, but I doubt if the audience, including the young, will find the film worthy of their hard-earned money. Cinematically, soft-focus technique and beautiful scenery are accompanied with eye-pleasing handsome guys and beautiful girls, but for a film to work, these are just not enough.