|When I Look Upon the Stars
Hong Kong, 1999
Leo Koo and the fast-rising star Hsu Chi headline the youth romance When I Look Upon the Stars: a romantic triangle (or a quadrilateral, actually), about Chinese people in present-day Tokyo.
Beautifully inventive cinematography and dazzling, playful editing (from the people who shot and cut some of Milky Way Image's best) stand out. And a script that -- rare delight, for HK -- seems thoughtful, witty, written and polished, even. Dante Lam (who has directed the under-rated Option Zero (1997), and (as someone else here speculated) probably directed the best parts of Beast Cops (1998)) does a fine job of holding the whole thing together -- almost. The script's weakness is in its structure: too much time spent with the dull (for me) prologue and epilogue.
But, boy, whenever Hsu Chi is on the screen, there's no let up. She's got a tremendous amount of talent: raw, sometimes rough edged, always charismatic and hyperactive and absolutely commanding. If she can continue to polish and refine what she's got, she has the makings of a great actress. The film's worth seeing for her alone, but there's much more pleasure here: in Koo's laid-back, natural charm, in another of Sam Lee's gallery of hilarious kooks, and in the film's sense of style. A nice look, too, at a non-exoticized Tokyo (except for the one obligatory Chungking Express shot: you know, actors in the foreground in slow motion, traffic and neon in the background in super fast motion). Hideous fashion warning (someone in the art dep't was nostalgic for the tie dyed late 60s); and if you're sweetly-romantic music averse, this may not be the soundtrack for you.
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