Reviewed by Shelly Kraicer, March, 2001.
Twelve Nights is a new popularly-oriented Hong Kong film with a difference: it is thoughtful, articulate, and very talky. Moreover, it is explicitly inspired by an Ingmar Bergman film: Scenes From a Marriage. Call it counter programming, or take it as an always useful reminder that the Hong Kong film industry -- in full recovery mode after a couple of years in which its very survival was in doubt -- is much more than an action genre movie factory.
First-time director Aubrey Lam's new film premiered in Hong Kong in April, and has cycled through the overseas Chinese film theatres and international video disk distribution network. So far, it has escaped the notice of the film festival circuit, with the notable exception of the 2000 Pusan International Film Festival.
A romantic drama with a twist, Twelve Nights charts the rise and fall of a young couple's love affair. Airline employee Jeannie (Cecilia Cheung) meets young businessman Alan (Eason Chan) at her birthday party, on what the film calls, in an intertitle, the "First night". Lam drew inspiration from Bergmans film for her screenplay's structural conceit; but she extends the model. The film charts the development of their relationship over exactly one year through eleven more scenes, each of which is a snapshot of their affair as it develops on a different night. Each scene is preceded by a title (Second night, Third night, etc.) and an ironic aphorism (e.g. "Only people in love believe that they are fated to meet").
Aubrey Lam wrote the screenplays for several of United Filmmakers Organization's critically acclaimed titles (Heaven Can't Wait,[Jiushi shengun], 1995 and The Age of Miracles [Ma ma fan fan], 1996). She has provided Twelve Nights with many of the typical virtues of a UFO film. This is an up-market, slickly designed and photographed, smartly written movie for the Hong Kong version of upwardly mobile, well educated yuppies. UFO films typically sport serious star power, and Twelve Nights follows suit: Hong Kong youth-idol and current "it-girl" Cecilia Cheung (Cecilia sings from the soundtrack), pop star Eason Chan, and rebel-popster Nicholas Tse headline the cast, guaranteeing the film an instant audience.
But what Lam does with these ingredients is refreshingly new. This is a film seen strictly and exclusively from a woman's point of view. Lam is interested in exploring the development of a woman's self-consciousness, how someone like Jeannie can grope towards and stabilize a mature, adult personality. [...]
See the full review in the current issue of Cinemaya: Spring 2001, issue 51, pp. 22-24.
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