Thursday, August 25, 2011
LETTER FROM AN UNKINOWN WOMAN (2004/CHINESE)
Yi ge mo sheng nu ren de lai xin (original title) (2004/Chinese). Director: Jinglei Xu.
"If you were to call me, even if I were in my tomb, I would gather my strength, get up, and go to you."
"There is nothing more terrible than to be alone with people all around."
In this adaptation of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig's story "Letter from an Unknown Woman" -- already filmed under that title by Hollywood in the 40's -- a young woman named Jiang (played by the director Jinglei Xu) develops an intense, life-long romantic obsession with a writer who lived near her when she was a girl. Although the story has moved from Austria to China and has been updated to a pre and post-WW2 period, this version is somewhat more faithful to the print source than the Hollywood version. The settings are colorful, and the production is well-served by handsome photography and a lovely musical score -- not to mention wonderful acting from the director-star and others in the cast. One problem with the movie is that, even given cultural differences, it is hard to believe that the object of the woman's obsessions, as portrayed by Wen Jiang, would inspire fantasies in pretty young girls. Jiang is not unattractive, but he's not exactly Louis Jourdan, either. Officer Huang [Haung Jiao], who romances the woman, is a bit more on the mark. [Admittedly romantic obsession often has little to do with looks.] Whatever its imperfections, this deliberately-paced movie is moving and altogether admirable. Some may even prefer it to the Hollywood version.
Verdict: A little gem from China. ***.