"I hated the cliffhanger, and the many aspects of this series where the performances are either truly good or truly bad, but at the end of the day, this series which could have been so much more better than just mediocre is worth watching for the sake of those few reasons I mentioned above."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
Fung Mo Heong Lor in Cantonese, like a blend of the Pheonix Night Club and the Qi Pao Tailoring Store. Like the many characters in this series, I find this Chinese title high class to the point that I can't understand it. I actually referred to this series throughout as Bitches And Snitches but then suddenly everybody stopped being mean to one another except for the one villain and technically there really isn't a spy in here. This title would have been more appropriate for War And Beauty.
No. Of Episodes
Man Chor era, around 1920s Shanghai.
Kong Wah - Wing Hou Tung
Anne Heung - Bo Chui Lung
Moses Chan - Siu Chung Hang
Michael Tong - Siu Chung Cheung
Wu Fung - Mr Siew
Gigi Lai - Hoi Tong
June Chan - Bak Lan
Melissa Ng -Lan Heong Ling
Marco Ngai - Chun Sing
King Kong - Kiu Tai
Ko Hung (not quite sure if this is his name, so I stand to be corrected) - Sang Yeh
Greg Rivers - Lui Mai (probably Remy?)
The story how the Qi Pao was designed and the struggles of the tailor who designed it in trying to make his creation recognised as National Treasure, as well as the lives of the many people who are directly or indirectly connected to the Qi Pao to tragic circumstances.
And frankly, this summary does not adequately describe the plot at all because it may look like everything revolves around the Qi Pao and yet not quite.
The Manchurian Qing Dynasty crumbled and 3 lives were affected by it which will in future cross path with one another resulting in tragic circumstances.
Bo Chui Lung was a Gege (Qing princess) but the fall of the dynasty meant she lost her fortune and her title. But she intelligently capitalised on her title of Gege in her restaurant business serving imperial cuisine but she had to struggle to keep the business afloat due to her gambling mother, forcing her to work for one of Shanghai's most notorious gangster/mafia, Wing to repay her mother's debt, without realising he had ulterior motive in offering her a job she knew she must not refuse.
Wing was the son of a freedom fighter fighting against the Qing dynasty but his father was captured and subsequently executed. He went into hiding and was adopted by a kindly woman who became his confidante. When he was a young teenager he met and joined Sang Yeh, a notorious gangster who actually had a reputation of someone reasonable and just. Sang Yeh had a son too, but was useless and power crazy. In Sang Yeh's mind, Wing was like his own son, but he was grooming Wing to assist his own son whom he knew was not good material in leading the gang. When one day out of sheer jealousy Sang Yeh's son challenged Wing to a duel in an attempt to assassinate Wing, the son fell on his own knife and was killed. Sang Yeh knew how his own son died but refused to believe them all and blamed a rickshaw puller named Siu Chung Hang who was passing by. Wing came personally to stand up for the rickshaw puller and Sang Yeh realised what had happened. In the end Sang Yeh retired and handed over the entire gang and business to Wing who had from the beginning strived to legitimise the business. And he gained a friend in Chung Hang as well. But their friendship would be tested and both fell for Chui Lung.
Siu Chung Hang was the son of a very famous tailor during the Qing Dynasty, and he enjoyed immense wealth and attention as his mother was recognised as the imperial tailor for her beautiful Manchurian costumes. When the dynasty fell, his family fell into hard times but Chung Hang worked hard to keep the family afloat by pulling rickshaws whilst his younger brother, Chung Cheung was the more flirtatious one who worked for Wing at the Phoenix Night Club. But Chung Hang had a talent, that is in tailoring and designing. And when he met Chui Lung, she immediately became his inspiration and muse and for her he created what was the first Qi Pao out of his beloved dead mother's only remaining Manchurian costume. As he struggled to learn his craft, Chui Lung inspired and encouraged Chung Hang but Chung Hang felt he was not good enough for her and refused to confess his love for her until she forced him to. And they began a courtship whilst Wing stood at the side, observing but not daring to act since Chung Hang was his only friend. At the meantime there was a acrobatic girl named Tong Tong, an ever optimistic and helpful girl who fell for Chung Cheung who betrayed her love by almost having an affair with the flirtatious Heong Ling, the famous singer/dancer/diva of Phoenix Night Club who was having an affair with Wing until he broke it off when he knew she would never die for him. Later, Tong Tong fell for the gentlemanly and gentle Chung Hang but did not do anything as she felt Chui Lung was classier and better for Chung Hang.
All these came to a boiling point when Chung Hang, in saving his brother Chung Cheung suffered scizhophrenia and to treat this mental illness he had to take medicine that will cause him to go blind. For that he broke off with Chui Lung pretending to have raped Tong Tong and Tong Tong went along with it because she loved Chung Hang too much and she wanted to help him. Tong Tong took care of Chung Hang who was still in love with Chui Lung whilst Chui Lung broken hearted decided to accept Wing's courtship, eventhough both didn't know about Chung Hang's true condition. Wing also withdrew himself from the gang's business and surrender all business to Tai, his loyal and trusted side kick to the chagrin of Chun Sing, an ambitious gang member who wooed and used Heong Ling to meet his ambition.
All was well until the tragic death of Chung Cheung which forced Wing to come out of retirement to investigate the matter and then Chun Sing planned to assassinate Wing to takeover the gang. Because of this Wing decided to run away with Chui Lung but in actual fact unbeknownst to Chui Lung, Chung Hang and Tong Tong, there was a bigger plan which culminated in the tragic death of one of them and a reunion that will only occur 5 years later.
Questions Asked And Answered
I decided to ask myself some big questions and answer them myself for your benefit, for those who either can't wait to finish this series to know the ending or simply didn't quite understand what was going on. Please take note, major spoilers as in complete spoilers below. Do not read if you do not want to know. But I am sure you have already guessed.
Who died in this series?
Tragically, 4 young people in their prime.
For one, Chung Cheung died out of stupid reasons. He died simply because Chun Sing wanted him dead. It wasn't because Chun Sing thought he was having an affair (again) with Heong Ling or because he overheard some sinister plan. He died because Chun Sing was having a bad day at work, and having no outlet for his anger, Chung Cheung was beaten half to death and then his neck slashed. Very meaningless and tragic death.
The second one is Heong Ling who died because she loved the wrong man whom she knew did something horrible to Chung Cheung, and when she wanted to do the right thing, she was involved in a major car accident (can't remember how she died exactly) and she died tragically.
The third was Tai who died whilst being massaged I think. Shot by Chun Sing who wanted to usurp power.
And finally, Tong Tong died. Who did you think died? I mean this was pre War And Beauty you know. Anyway she died for love. Chun Sing wanted to shoot Wing, who I think was pushed away by Chui Lung who was pushed away by Chung Hang who was shielded by Tong Tong who was shot in the back and died some time later, who before dying took the hands of Chung Hang and Chui Lung and placed them one atop another to signify they belong to each other. Then she died. Very tragic death.
Actually all 4 very tragic deaths but on the scale of true tragic death, Chung Cheung took the cake. His death was violent, shocking and in the end meaningless. Sad also because he really wanted to help his brother to make a good Qi Pao and he was very hardworking in achieving his brother's dream and before he died he whispered an apology to his brother. And the way Chung Hang found out how he died was also very tragic, as Chung Hang was walking out of the hospital and he bumped into a stretcher and there he was, Chung Cheung. But that scene the most tragic of all was Moses Chan, Anne Heung and Gigi Lai's acting. Not to give anything away as to how I feel about their performances, let's just say Michael Tong as the corpse did much better than these 3.
Did Chun Sing died? Isn't his death young and tragic too?
He asked for it. He was shot by Wing dramatically on the beach amid rising tide. Really, I am not joking. The last episode is worth watching simply for the way some scenes were shot and the poetic way the deaths were told.
Why did Chui Lung had to leave?
She couldn't be with Wing because
a. she thought Wing used her and Chung Hang by not telling them his big plans of finding the gang's traitor (so all those scenes where Sang Yeh was dying and all were false as Wing and Sang Yeh already suspected something when Kiu Tai died suddenly) so she broke off with him. But as Wing honestly said to her, "You broke off with me because you wanted to". Which is true. So the better reason was...
b. she didn't love him enough. She still loved Chung Hang. And yet she can't stay with Chung Hang because she was reminded of Tong Tong's sacrifice and Chung Hang was not able to commit to her because again of Tong Tong's sacrifice.
So she left.
What happened 5 years later?
Wing became a legitimate businessman and chairman of the Chamber of Commerce but unmarried. Chung Hang became famous due to his Qi Pao which was recognised as National Treasure, also unmarried. A reporter why was that so and Wing answered he was looking for some who would scold him when he was out of line whilst Chung Hang said he was looking for someone who would encourage him when he was down and out. Both were talking about Chui Lung. Tong Tong was unfortunately gone and forgotten.
In the end she came back but she went with who then?
Not told in the ending. The ending was Chui Lung appearing in a stunning new Qi Pao with a very nice hairdo and very little make up making her look very ..
Funn, can you just tell me the ending and stop describing how Anne Heung looked?
I can't help it. The entire series looked good because of the costume and I was very amazed at her ending scene where she looked very beautiful despite lesser makeup and her Qi Pao was...
Funn, the ending?
Oh yes, the ending. Anyway she looked amazing but interestingly sulky. She went back to her restaurant. Wing was walking because his car broke down. And he walked and walked and then he reached the restaurant. Chung Hang was walking when suddenly a gush of wind blew at him and he was I think chasing his paper or handkerchief, can't remember and he reached the restaurant. Wing saw him and they both smiled and both walked into the restaurant not knowing Chui Lung was back. The last scene was Chui Lung looking stunningly elegant and yet interestingly sulky and she heard footsteps and the footsteps were slowly approaching the door when suddenly, the credits rolled and the end.
Frustrating ending if you ask me. So ask me, who do I think she would end up with, if she hadn't marry yet.
So Funn, who do you think she would end up with, if she hadn't marry yet?
Many reviews speculated on this because that was the purpose of the cliffhanger. Many said probably Wing, because
a. people like Kong Wah more
b. Wing really loved her and did many things for her
c. because Kong Wah and Anne Heung had played lovers for like the thousandth time.
but in my humble opinion, and you may disregard my opinion but I must stress that I do think she would have ended up with Chung Hang with the blessing of Wing. From the start to the end, she really loved Chung Hang who really loved her whilst she felt gratitude, was touched by Wing's love but never quite felt the same for Wing that she did for Chung Hang. Her reason for breaking up with Wing was flimsy and was simply an excuse and Wing knew it but Wing didn't stop her since Chui Lung was a very decisive type of woman. So if you ask me, Chung Hang would be the one who will win Chui Lung's heart again because quite frankly I don't think he ever lost it at all.
For the first time, the plot was easier for me to write than my opinion. Frankly I do not know what to think of this series. Everytime I felt like giving up watching this series for good, there will be something making it worth watching, and always towards the end of a particular episode. Whilst the performances by the men are generally better than that of the women, the songs were wonderful and the story quite interesting, the real reason to watch this series will of course be the beautiful costumes (Qi Paos, western, everything actually) and the background sets. I think it may have been unprecedented. I have never watched a TVB series where the wallpapers played a pivotal role to the particular scene or set. The attention to details was not only admirable, it was fascinating. Just check out Chung Hang's house, Phoenix Nigh Club's decorations, the many settings. The winning feature would of course be Lan Heong Ling's costume, Chui Lung's and Tong Tong's distinctly different but as beautiful Qi Paos. It is by watching this series I realised Qi Paos can be of so many types; it can be elegant, conservative, flashy, flirtatious, practical and always making the woman more desirable, sensually intriguing and always elegant. Problem of course you must be slim which is why I feel Hanboks will win handsdown for practicality and suitable for all body size.
Anyway, these are a few reasons why this series must be watched. But I will go further to say do not let the snail pace and the confusion stop you from watching further. That was my feeling. I switched on the TV, watched for the first 30 minutes and wondering why was I still watching and curse curse curse and then the last 10 minutes something happened that made me switched it on again tomorrow.
The first few reasons why I continued watching was the details. Then it was the way the characters mingled, and the revelations about their past. Like a simple scene of Chui Lung, Chung Hang and Wing eating crabs. That one scene told a lot of meanings. You know that Wing felt he wasn't good enough for Chui Lung and felt very much out of place because he didn't know how to eat those crabs. Although he was a rich man with power, in his own eyes he realised Chui Lung would be much more compatible with Chung Hang, a poor tailor who knew how to eat crabs. Sad to say the crabs signify pedigree which Wing had none on the sense of education and such. Then there was this scene where Wing sat on the fake throne in the restaurant which was very symbolic and ironic as he told how his father was executed for being a rebel during the Qing Dynasty and how he had to hide, beg and suffer until he found a way out of poverty when Qing fell and he joined the gang. The fall of Qing made Chui Lung and especially Chung Hang without fortune and status whilst gave people like Wing an opportunity to rise up and take charge of their own destiny. I love that scene actually as I find it intelligently written, the pararell of the 3 characters and their destinies which is rare these days in TVB series.
Then there was the reason why Sang Yeh wanted to avenge his son's death. His son we all know, and he knew was useless. But in Sang Yeh's mind, he remembered the old days when he was being pursued and his young son bravely stood in front of his dad to protect him. It was because of this that Sang Yeh ignored his son's inadequacies. This wasn't shown but rather was told. This series may have lacked the flashbacks we are all so accustomed to but in just showing the characters telling their stories and the camera focussing on his or her face is really better than flashbacks.
Then there was the character development, how Wing became a friend of Chung Hang and the in office battle of wills between Wing and Chui Lung. I especially liked the idea of Chung Hang seeing in Chui Lung his muse and inspiration and how her desperate need for something to wear drove Chung Hang to create the first stunning Qi Pao. When Chui Lung walked in, she looked simply exquisite. The relationship between Chung Hang and his drunkard tailor sifu was also very interesting. In fact the best scenes of this series involves the Qi Paos in some ways who is the real star in this series. A must mention is also the way Wing ran his business and how he dealt with the foreigners. I must mention also the themes of trust, loyalty, friendship and sacrifice which could be seen throughout this story, giving it a very positive type of preaching, like be loyal to your friends, friendship knows no value of money but value of trust, etc etc etc.
Then there were those hot kissing scenes courtesy of Melissa Ng, Kong Wah, Elaine Yew and Michael Tong. Oh no, not all 4 in one scene! Anyway, Kong Wah and Melissa Ng had this very urgent type of make out scene and then the clock struck one. As you must know, there was a scene where Wing was being pursued by his enemy and he told Heong Ling to wait in the car until 1 am, if he's not out by then to leave. He came out at 1 am but Heong Ling, who was very frightened by the gun shots sound left 1 minute before 1am. Thereafter she tried to mend the relationship but it was all over because Wing knew she would never die for him and like someone said to me, you would always hope your most beloved will sacrifice him or herself for you. Anyway Heong Ling did sacrifice her body by sleeping with the French guy Remy to save Chun Sing. Actually Chun Sing was using her. Talk aboit sacrificing for the wrong man.
And I really enjoyed how Wing and Chui Lung interacted at first, how rude she was and how frustrated he was. She was fiercely independant, intelligent with a mind of her own, and so when Wing forced her to work for him, it was like trapping her. Wing got most of the killer stare of Chui Lung but he didn't mind; he was attracted to her because she reminded her of his dead old girlfriend. Very funny scenes.
Later on it was how the story was told and shot.
A good example was Chung Cheung's death which came in the last 5 minutes of one particular episode. The way he died, how he died and why he died were all rather poetic, beautifully shot and very violently tragic. This series had loads of moments like these, many of them in the last episode in the last 30 minutes or so.
Like how Tong Tong died. The way she was shot, she looked deep into Chung Hang's eyes who didn't register what had happened, and when she fell straight and stiffly on her back on the ground, her hand was trying to hold on to Chung Hang but she fell and fell and fell, the moment very dramatic, quite silent in a way and very long, like seconds but her falling was like a lifetime but a good type of lifetime because the scene, the lightning all very beautifully shot. And her final scene, on the hospital bed, pale and gasping for air, the lightning like one single spotlight on top.
Also the death of Chun Sing, the way he and Wing stood opposite each other in the duel to the death and the water was rising and both shot and shot and Wing's bullet got the man and he fell face up, back into the water in a dramatic fashion. For a moment I thought the last episode was directed by Wong Kar Wai/Zhang Yimou wannabe you know.
This series has its ups and when it is up, the ups are usually of such quality that you feel if TVB can give each series they filmed such attention, perhaps there wouldn't be much to complain.
But series has loads of downs, that it takes someone who has been forced fed with useless stupid plots for so many years to truly appreciate this series for what it is despite the downs.
What are the downs?
The couple swapping plot. First A was with B but C was in love with A and D who was seeing C was lusting after E who was seeing F. Then F broke off with E who went away with G. Then C broke off with D and went for A who broke off with B who ended up with F. Just take a big guess who is A, B, C, D, E, F and G. The relationship in here is very complicated as everyone falls for this particular group of people. Very restrictive love affair that did not move me. In fact I find the love stories boring and overbearing though for some time I enjoyed watching Chui Lung on the bicycle with Chung Hang, happily cycling along as Wing looked on.
Then there was the character of Chun Sing and his quite sudden turn to the dark side. But once he was in the dark side, it was easier to watch. He started out a coward who did many things to preserve his own life. In fact I find him selfish most of the time. He had no power, so he had to act like a dog in front of his first boss and then Wing and then Sang Yeh and then Kiu Tai, whilst at the back he was gathering power and acting like a big mean bully. He was the one who instigated Tai to capture Chung Cheung who was almost having an affair with Heong Ling, because Heong Ling was Wing's woman though they broke up. Tai and Chun Sing pushed Chun Cheung into a cage and tried to burn him alive when Heong Ling appeared with a very irritated looking Wing who simply looked at Heong Ling with eyes as if saying "Look what you have done?". Chun Sing did things on his own, and was always eager to win praises and accolades.When Tai tookover from Wing, he began his planning. The reason why he killed Chung Cheung later on was simple; he was bullied by others and so he vented his anger on Chung Cheung and bullied him to his death. In the end the contrast between this man and Wing was very interesting; Wing was accused by Chui Lung of acting without consulting other people but then he meant well. Chun Sing was a bully through and through, nothing redeeming about his character who became more and more out of control as he thought he can do a better job as a leader. Always the dreamer in fact. He couldn't lead of course, no one would respect such a leader. I would have wished though for more scenes on how he decided to become mean and all because at first he was quite a coward. But I think I understood that all the pent up anger leading to his first kill and thereafter he enjoyed the release so much he began his so called bullying and killing spree. A mad man actually but would have been better written if more scenes given to him.
Then there was the story of Heong Ling's legs, being crippled and all and how Chun Sing wooed her though I never understood why he wanted her anyway. He never loved her by the way, poor woman.
But the worst plot was Chung Hang first going crazy then going blind and then pretending to be engaged to Tong Tong, another desperate character who knew the man didn't love her but wanted so much to own him in a good way, she didn't mind at all. There were some scenes which was obviously taken from A Beautiful Mind but you know, Moses Chan is not Russel Crowe. And I never understood why in times of mental illness, Chung Hang saw the eunuch. I mean he said he will protect Chung Hang when he was very little but that was like one time statement. And then he kept seeing this eunuch, dreaming of a conspiracy, etc, that this series began to feel stupid and ridiculous. Then the story of his blindness was an ultimate bore and this lasted until the last episode. You might be tempted to give up on this series by then but please don't. Just skip and watch the last episode.
And overall, the performances, more downs than ups. More on that later.
Most Excellent Scene
I give this scene its own heading because I never thought, what a way to cure mental illness!
The scene was this. Chung Hang took Chui Lung to that secret hideout which in his mind was opulent but was actually deserted for many years. Inside contained many Manchurian written words about reviving the Qing Dynasty so that Chung Hang's Qi Paos can be declared National Treasure. Chui Lung was observing Chung Hang who saw the Eunuch who was sitting down on the couch, in his mind approving of Chui Lung's involvement. Then suddenly Wing appeared and the eunuch in Chung Hang's mind was stressed. Wing told Chung Hang to wake up and when Chung Hang said what he saw was real, Wing simply took out his gun, aimed at the sofa where the eunuch was sitting and shot as few shots! Chung Hang didn't see any blood and suddenly realised what he was seeing may not be real!
Classic scene if you ask me when Wing cooly shot the sofa!
Most Favourite Couple
However much I love Kong Wah, I liked the scenes of Chui Lung and Chung Hang more than everybody else. I find them such a well mannered and polite couple and yet very much in love as they went cycling, he gently brushed her hair, she shyly held on on to his arms. I really do not think Anne Heung and Moses Chan were lacking in chemistry. Their chemistry is not those loud "see me with him/her" type of chemistry you saw in Point of No Return. It's more gentle, more slow burning, but yet very passionate in a deadpan expression sort of way. I think Anne looks very good with Moses and vice versa and I hope to see such a pairing again in future eventhough their acting leave much to be desired.
That being said I must mention though how these two became a couple was nothing special but that scene where Chui Lung was asking Chung Hang to confess his love and he refused and when she left in a huff he held on to her arm and confessed, it could have been so much better if it weren't these two actors in that scene. Moses was deadpan, expressionless and talking in that tone and the way we have become accustomed to when we see Moses; the perpetual sighing and sounding like he was bored without any expression. Anne was slightly better in being emotional, eyes a bit blurry with tears but overall was also as expressionless and deadpan. Even in declaring their love for one another, Moses sounded bored and Anne sounded like she was giving a sermon about love. It was a beautiful scene which was horribly acted.
But I still like to say that Anne and Moses look very good together.
Least Favourite Couple
Tong Tong and Chung Hang, boring. Tong Tong and Chung Cheung, boring. Heong Ling and Wing, not even a couple, more like boss and his mistress although Wing was always polite to Heong Ling. Heong Ling and Chun Sing, boring. Of all, Tong Tong and Chung Hang, not even real couple and very very frustrating to watch Tong Tong clinging to Chung Hang for all that she was worth when she knew he never loved her as much she loved him or as much as he loved Chui Lung.
A "I Must Clarify This" Aspect
Chung Hang is not a tailor. He is a fashion designer. A very big difference.
I doubt during the 1920s there was a term for scizophrenia, more so medicine for it. I stand to be corrected but I think I am right. Anyway, this series glamourised the often inhuman treatment of mental patients in mental hospitals. Like the zapping of the brain. It's not pretty you know but this series made it look pretty. Being a mental patient back then was like being sentenced to death, no one to help you. This series didn't highlight that, and in fact I think put some modern spin to it. In this sense this series was not accurate at all.
Heong Ling's costume, all very beautiful except for that butchered purple Qi Pao. I liked it in its original design.
Everything Chui Lung wore, except for the western dress and the purple coloured Qi Pao with that big flower motif in front. That made her look fat and clumsy. Her best ones were the earlier Qi Paos, the last one and the top she wore before Chung Hang made the Qi Paos.
Tong Tong's white costume whilst on stage and also that glittering out of place type of Qi Pao when she died. The worst was that one she always wore when practising dancing.
Wing, never in a Cheong Sam by the way but later scenes of him in a black suit I think. Was there such a cutting back then? I do not know. Anyway, looks good on him.
Chung Hang had few costumes, but his best which made him look tall was that cream coloured Cheong Sam which he still wore 5 years later despite his many branches of his shop.
Heong Ling, with her fake wig and red lipstick and diamond head dress, she was always impeccable and very glamarous looking.
Chui Lung suffered from over make up and her hair way too overdone, although her last scene in the last episode revealed a very beautiful, subdued, older and much more elegant her.
Tong Tong looked plain at first until she became Phoenix Night Club's star singer, dressing in white and her make up took a sudden turn to the flamarous side, red lipsticks and loads of powder.
Wing had too much powder on his face. In fact the amount of make up on his face can only be challenged by that of Tong Tong's,
Most Confusing Aspect
Why Chun Sing wooed Heong Ling? Don't know.
Chui Lung's name which I thought was Cheuk Lung thanks to Moses' unclear pronunciation. In fact I thought it was Cheuk Lung for half the series. Then I thought Cheuk Lam! Then I thought Chui Yung for the rest of the series until a few episodes before the ending. By the time the series ended I was not quite sure if I ever got her name right.
The restaurant business by Chui Lung. Ever seen it making business? Exactly, never seen a real customer, and just one table only!
Why Tong Tong was like wearing more and more glamarous looking Qi Paos towards the end?
Melissa Ng's dancing. Very stiff at first, then less stiff and not very stiff. Never really nimble, or dancer-like at all. In fact I would have hoped Hong Wah would play this role since she is a classical dancer and she is pretty but I must admit, Melissa Ng has that Man Chor type of classic diva-ish beauty. In fact Anne Heung would have been a better dancer. Anyway horrible dancing.
Gigi Lai's singing and dancing. Don't know which is worse, and she was singing English! English! One English song to build her career! Singing like she was dying, no energy. I think Priscilla Chan sang Melissa's songs, not quite sure but this one, Gigi Lai's singing was bad, then she had to dance which was really bad and coupled with that she had to act so you can just imagine, one cancels the other and in the end left with an empty shell. I must admire my poetic prose...
Kong Wah's thin frame. Even Anne looked bigger than he was. But being thin didn't affect his ability to act of course.
Last but not least, the general direction of this series. It didn't know whether it wanted to become a fashion show, a story about people, gang fights, mental patients, love stories, fashion designing, etc so it had a mish-mash of everything and so the plot suffered due to the lack of precise emphasis.
Least Confusing Aspect
Why Chun Sing can never succeed. He treated his men like pieces of garbage, he treated his woman like a prostitute, he used people and was never grateful, he hired a bunch of people who can't shoot straight or stood there to be shot and he himself when mano-a-mano with Wing can't even aim decently. He deserved to fail.
This Series Is Soooo Familiar
Because it ripped off some famous Hollywood movies, like A Beautiful Mind, Road To Perdition, Godfather. I was waiting for a ship to sink ala Titanic.
This series is not great because of the performances. In fact my evaluation is who is worse than the other! So from the very worst to the very good...
The worst actor is without a doubt, Wu Fung. Watch his performance and I rest my case.
Second in line is Moses Chan, who did well in scenes where he was designing the Qi Paos and worst in mental scenes. Someone said he didn't look like a tailor, he was a miscast. Of course he wasn't a tailor. He was a fashion designer and he looked like it. I don't care how he looked as long as he can act! But he was truly horrible, especially the scene where he saw Michael Tong's Chung Cheung's dead body. His performance is like blank face to more blank faces. It was just a matter of how blank his face was. But this man can cry, but still deadpan type of crying. His facial expressions forever frozen by some unknown forces. Definitely not Botox.
Third in line is a fight between two extremes; Gigi Lai, the one who overacts and Anne Heung, the female Moses Chan, but prettier than Moses and couldn't cry as well as Moses, the one with the deadpan look. Someone said Anne was worse than Gigi. I beg to differ; they're as bad, and some scenes Gigi was worse. This is officially Anne's series, as she is the lead actress in here without a doubt. I have a soft spot for Anne, because she looked stunningly elegant in here, so she fitted the part of Chui Lung like a glove. She emits this very elegant persona, sophisticated in some sense and yet emotionally not there. I never saw Chui Lung as someone emotional and in a way Anne's very limited expressions did fit the needs of the character. Anne always gave me an impression that she is humble and very intelligent, and her Chui Lung reflected that. Looks wise she was perfect. And then she had to act of course, and that kinda killed the aura a bit but not that bad. She wasn't that bad. At the beginning she was very good, she improved so much but then her facial expressions were like frozen as the series went on, she was always preaching when saying her lines and other than looking elegant and behaving like a truly well mannered aristrocat, her acting was truly inadequate. Not horrible, but nevertheless inadequate. Gigi was the other extreme, when she cried she cried gasping for air and then she delivered her lines and I can't hear a single word she said. Her face was either of ecstacy or in a frown, and her delivering of her lines was really incredibly without realism, like delivering it for delivering sake. Like a pre programmed robot at times, and some other times like runaway pre-programmed robot. She tried too hard, whilst Anne didn't seem like she was trying much. Gigi acted as if she was acting, no sense of reality whilst Anne acted as if she was permanently bored, no sense of excitement. So I can't decide who was worse. But Anne really improved tremendously. Rumours had it Sonija Kwok was offered this role. Imagine if she had been Chui Lung. Oh no, I can't imagine it. I'd rather not, it would have been my greatest nightmare.
The fourth in line was of course King Kong. He was dead pan throughout.
The fifth in line was June Chan. Too eager.
The sixth in line was Michael Tong. Boring actor, acting like he was acting but at least not as bad as everybody mentioned above.
The seventh in line was Ko Hung. He looked permanently bemused.
The eighth in line was Greg Rivers, finally a name to TVB's only permanent gwailo actor, playing a French in here. Being 8th in here is not that bad actually.
The ninth in line was Lee Chi Seng. Always a dependable actor when playing scums, in here he was watchable actually.
The tenth in line was Melissa Ng who gave a very believable performance of a diva. I quite like her performance in here although her dancing was truly horrible.
The eleventh in line was Marco Ngai. Fantastic performance, you can see the changes in his demeanour and his eyes. A bit too old for this role but I'd rather have him in this role than anybody else. He looked rather handsome towards the end in a black shirt.
The twelth in line, and the last one I shall comment on is obviously my most favourite TVB actor, now no longer with TVB and I cried myself silly, Kong Wah. His performance was cool, like a sleek cat, but I hated his catwalk walk. Other than that, I love him to bits in this series, his every gaze, his every smirk, even his dreaded catwalk type of walk which I hated. I have nothing much to say except that the scenes that made him great were those little scenes where a simple question or a simple gaze will do. One of his best scene was the way he looked at Melissa Ng's Heong Ling as she was leaving as he remembered she left before 1am. That look, only an actor of Kong Wah's calibre can deliver. His worst scene was the frantic kissing scene with Melissa Ng, it was sad to say devoid of sensuality, or even animal lust. It was just him jumping literally on top of Melissa who had this forced ecstacy look on her, none very convincing actually. Kong Wah is now gone but I hope he comes back fatter, better and refreshed.
Final Thought Summarized
I personally could not say this series was the best, nor was it the worst or the most interesting. There weren't much happening in here and yet there were. It could be boring and yet not quite so. But I can say it is different in many sense, a same old story but told in a very different way. The Qi Paos can only sustain your attention for probably 70% of the series, the backdrop probably also 70% but the rest of the 30% is for yourself to seek the reasons to continue to watch this series. The slow pace, the often unrealistic dialogue and the many bad performances might make you go "No way!".
I must admit there is no sense of realism in this series as it went on and on although the first episode was excellent, a rarity in TVB series these days. I have to say sometimes I find this series too high class that I could not connect with it. Not just in wealth but in manners, behaviour and the settings. But we watch series to depict perhaps a different world from our own. Find a reason to continue watching it. It could be because of the actors, it could be because of the story, I continued because of Kong Wah, Qi Paos and also the fine touches in some scenes that told me do not abandon this series and I was rewarded with some very beautifully shot scenes in the last episode. I hated the cliffhanger, and the many aspects of this series where the performances are either truly good or truly bad, but at the end of the day, this series which could have been so much more better than just mediocre is worth watching for the sake of those few reasons I mentioned above.
No rating system anymore but to articulate it in words, it is a series worth watching for people who are looking for something not quite ordinary and yet not that extraordinary. There are a lot more I did not comment on so that it might encourage you to give this series a chance. It's those BIG details but not really that important if you ask me. Therefore the spoilers in here though whole but I have hoped I have kept it to its barest minimum in the sense you know what happened but not quite why. I think that may give you some incentive to watch this series.
Skip the episodes but don't skip it in its entirety. You might find something that keeps your attention.
The Question Answered
We know Anne Heung is the lead actress. But who is the lead actor? My answer is Moses Chan as the entire series revolves around him and his Qi Paos. See, very easy to answer.
I always thought Cheong Sam is Qi Pao but this series was very clear on this.
Qi Pao refers to the one worn by the women. Cheong Sam refers to the one worn by the men! And in Malaysia we call everything Cheong Sam!
But again my observation was not that accurate. Check this out.
"The English loan word cheongsam, which comes from Cantonese, is used for the garment when worn by either men or women. The word qipao refers only to a woman's clothes."
(Taken from wikipedia.org)
I did some digging on the history of the dress and what I found was interesting. Check out Interesting History.
My quest is to find out who created or rather who altered the Qi Pao into the modern look that it is today. What I found was much more and yet my question unanswered. Maybe the timeline in this series may not be entirely accurate as I thought the series is set during the 1920s.
"When the Manchu began to rule China, certain social strata emerged. Among the strata were the Banners (qi), mostly Manchu, who as a group were called Banner People (qi-ren). Manchu women typically wore a one-piece dress that came to be known as the qipao or banner dress. The qipao fit loosely and hung straight down the body. The garment proved popular and survived the political turmoil of the 1911 Xinhai Revolution that toppled the Qing Dynasty. It has become, with few changes, the archetypal dress for Chinese women.
Its modern version was first developed in Shanghai around 1900. Slender and form fitting with a high cut, it contrasted sharply with the traditional qipao which was designed to conceal the figure and be worn regardless of age. In Shanghai it was first known as changshan (Cantonese: cheongsam.
The cheongsam (the Cantonese term later popularized by Hong Kong) went well with the western overcoat and scarf, and portrayed a unique East Asian modernity. As Western fashions changed, the basic cheongsam design changed too, introducing high-necked sleeveless dresses, bell-like sleeves, and the black lace frothing at the hem of a ball gown. By the 1940s, cheongsam came in transparent black, beaded bodices, matching capes, and even velvet. Later, checked fabrics also became quite common.
The 1949 Communist Revolution ended the cheongsam and other fashions in Shanghai, but the Shanghainese emigrants and refugees brought the fashion to Hong Kong where it has remained popular. Recently there has been a revival of the Shanghainese cheongsam in Shanghai and elsewhere in Mainland China; the Shanghainese style functions now mostly as a stylish party dress."
(Taken from wikipedia.org)
"Where Does "Cheongsam" Come From?...
The cheongsam has a history of over 300 years, but with the many superb features and fabrics, all distinctively Chinese, the popularity of the cheongsam has only been increasing in the international world of high fashion.
Cantonese, the main dialect of Guangzhou (once called Canton) and surrounding areas, lent English the word cheongsam during British colonial days - it fitingly means "long dress". The dresses are also commonly called qipao in the Mandarin tongue. When the early Manchu rulers came to China proper, they organized many people into "banners" (qi) and called them "banner people" (QiRen, which the Manchus were often after called). The standard one-piece dress worn by Manchu women was thus dubbed "qipao" or "banner dress." Although the 1911 Revolution toppled the rule of the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty, the qipao and all its original charm has lasted.
Moreover, with later improvements this paradigm of female fashion has become the traditional dress for Chinese women. Diverse colors and patterns and many special designs can be found at every special occasion in China today. It is doubtful the inimitable model of female fashion that is the cheongsam (or qipao if you prefer) will ever fade from what has become a global appreciation."
(Taken from transprism.com)
More on the legend behind Qipaos here at my-qipao.com although the website was actually talking about the Manchurian olden days Qipao and not the one in this series, what I call the modern Qipao. Still no sign of who actually altered the Qipao to be more tight fitting. My search continues...
More history of Qipao here at womenofchina.com and yet not one mention of the person responsible for making the Qipao into the modern version. All websites said how comfortable the modern version is but frankly, with all my fat hanging out, Qipao is not my idea of a dinner wear. It's not comfortable, it's too revealing and yet not rude nor disgusting. I guess this is the success of the modern Qipaos.
Anyway, I give up. Not one website even mention a name. Maybe in Chinese language websites but I can't read Chinese. Maybe you can help fill in the blanks. Who altered the Qipao into what it is today?
For more detailed episode summaries, try TVBSpace.net.
To download the themesong, try asian-palace.net.