Here's one for the 1997 time capsule, as Chinese-American director Wayne Wang bids adieu to the former British colony of Hong Kong. Set during the final months of British rule, the film works best as a highly symbolic postcard from a time and a place that may be
gone forever. John (Jeremy Irons) is an English writer who's spent the last 15 years living and working in Hong Kong. Unbeknownst to everyone around him, John has leukemia and only a few months to live: His death, it turns out, will coincide neatly colony's return to mainland China. While John
has a wife and family back home, his heart belongs to his adopted city and to Vivian (Gong Li), the beautiful mistress of another man whom John will never really possess. One afternoon, John becomes transfixed by Jean (Maggie Cheung), a kooky Hong Kong street hustler with a British accent and a
facial disfigurement (the result of a suicide attempt when she was jilted by an English lover). Camcorder in hand, John attempts to finally understand Hong Kong as he interviews Jean, woos Vivian and says farewell to his life. There's quite a bit of emotion built in to the situations, but this is
really a film about ideas: If it all sounds a little heavy-handed and obvious, it is. But while the metaphors are leaden, the acting is wonderful -- uber-Brit Irons is perfectly cast, while Gong Li and Cheung are simply radiant -- and Wang goes a long way towards capturing the manic vibrancy of
Hong Kong and its beguiling contradictions.
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