STAGE DOOR (HU DU MEN)
DIRECTOR: SHU KEI
COUNTRY: HONG KONG 1996
MUSIC: OTOMO YOSHIDE
CAST: Josephine Siao Fong-fong, Anita Yuen Wing-yee, Chung King-fai, David Wu Tai-wai, Waise Lee Chi-hung
SUPER FEATURES: Great story and funny stuff through out
Gosh, this film is about so many things at the same time that it is a wonder that it comes around to an end, that is satisfying and helps define the film is important and valuable. If this sounds like too much, then the film is full of stuff that is very enjoyable and truly nuts ... and one could hardly expect for more in a film.
Story.... let's see, where do we start. It has to do with a Cantonese Opera singer that has become a star. But for her to get there she has needed to get various bits and pieces of help for her to be able to do her work. And she plays men's roles in the opera.
In the middle of it all we find out that she has had to let go a child, which her sister has raised, so she could concentrate on the stage. The title is a word in Cantonese Opera that refers to the invisible line that actors cross between real life and acting. And this film makes sure that it does not mix the two for a moment, but towards the end, it is obvious to us, not the opera's audience, that this line has been crossed, although it is crossed in a nice way, rather than one that hurts a performance, or hurts the personal life that each character has.
In between are the craziest of actors and people speaking at the same time, and always on an edge.
We really do not find out very much about the characters, except the lead one, and the past. Like there are hints that the real father of the child that she has is actually an actor in the troupe who is now gay. And on top of it all, the family situation at home is getting desperate.. the husband is losing his business and the daughter is becoming very gay. For the character of Lang Kim-sum this is not a problem, since she has been around this stuff for years. But for her husband, this is a terrible predicament.... until it all crumbles in the end for him, when he finaly becomes a nice man.
The really nice thing about this film is that it is hard and harsh and heavy, but it is also a lot of fun. Lang Kim-sum has her share of problems, but she always manages well (with great expression a la J. Maguire) to sidestep the problem and come up with a solution. And if this mess is not enough, the suitor to the girl that is being forced into her troupe happens to be her son, which she can not tell him, or admit to anyone else. Only her sister, who brought the boy up knows it.
Well, if you are into fun films that are crazy, really do not wish to be saying very much on its own, then this film is for you. The film speaks bundles, but it is all in the undertones, and in the style with which it is handled. We know there are problems, but somehow things work out and "the show goes on". This film follows that saying truthfully, and magnificently.
Excellent performance by Josephine Siao, as the lead, in what is really a very difficult role to balance out without being melodramatic or trying to be funny. She manages it excellently well.
Beautifully arranged and directed.
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