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Written by Funn Lim





"And if you ask me, this is not a Wang Lee Hom movie. Nope. It is a Wang Lee Hom DOCUMENTARY."










SPOILERS ... SPOILERS ... SPOILERS


Chinese title
Lian Ai Tong Gao

Let me guess, literally translated as "A Notice/Order For Romance". I like the English title though.

Released in
2010


Directed by
Leehom Wang

Writing credits
Hung-chieh Chen, Xin Yi Du, Leehom Wang

Cast-Character
Taken from IMDB.com

Leehom Wang ... Du Ming-Han
Yifei Liu ... Song Xiao-Qing
Joan Chen ... Joan
Han Dian Chen ... Wei Zhi-Bai
Khalil Fong
Zhenyu Qiao ... Mu Fan
Na Xie
Yike Zeng ... Xiao Tao

Summary
From GSC movies

Du Minghan (Wang Leehom) is a famous celebrity pop star and with the help of his agent, Joan (Joan Chen), his career took off amazingly.

When he accidentally met the plain looking Song Xiaoqing (Crystal Liu), he immediately fell in love with her and decides to disguise himself as a student, Ah De, together with his best pal (Chen Han Dian).

Will Xiaoqing ever find out the truth of Ah De's real identity? Will she be able to accept him for who he is?

Comment
I hope the above is not the official summary because reading that summary I felt like I was watching a different movie.

Let me say this out clearly; I do not doubt Wang Lee Hom as a musician. I admire his musical abilities, I was his fan until he became like every Taiwanese pop star with the melancholic love songs, I really miss his earlier works. I may have doubts over his lyrics writing skills but I do not doubt his voice and his melodies so to speak. But I wonder who suggested to him that he can write, direct AND star in a movie that I believe he himself feels strongly for (as he should as this is his baby) and I believe his fans will eagerly watch and buy and keep and promote and praise till no end in sight but the general populace like myself may just feel the only reason he got this weak script made into a movie and directed by himself, a first time director and directing himself no less is purely because of his popularity as a musician. I will not even call him a singer, he is above that and again that I do not doubt. It is obvious if this script came from a Mr Up And Coming Nobody, it would not have been made into a movie without at least a complete overhaul of the plot plus a few rewrites. Not that it was awful.

For a first time director, and an occasional actor, Wang Lee Hom did a fair job but that is me being kind because I like him. Truthfully the movie is incoherent at times, inconsistent mostly and uniformly messy. Oh yes, it can be messy and yet organised mess.

I will save my breath over the story; it is simply a pop star meets ordinary pretty girl, goes looking for her, falls for her, juggles between 2 identities and realises the times he was in disguise is his real self, and in the end manages to get the girl and saves the music university from total and absolute annihilation due to unpopularity of Chinese music instruments in the face of modern R&B and hip hop and what nots. In the middle he crammed some stuff on the difficulties of being a pop star like constantly surrounded by rumours that are not true, paparazzis as well as snotty classically trained musicians versus famous pop stars seemingly without musical credentials. And above all that he crammed in as well the meaning of music, the making of music and the flow of music through visuals and some imagination sequences.

And if you ask me, this is not a Wang Lee Hom movie. Nope. It is a Wang Lee Hom DOCUMENTARY. Take away Crystal Liu and the half baked love story and what you really have is a musician's take on a musical journey through the eyes of a musician that is Wang Lee Hom.

And that is what I like about this movie. Everytime he sings, he plays the piano, plays the Chinese violin, performs or in Du Ming Han mode, he is at his best because that is not acting; that is Wang Lee Hom being Wang Lee Hom. But when he is far away from a musical instrument or a stage or not in a performance, quite frankly I have no idea what he is doing onscreen. As an actor, he must work on his diction. I can understand Joan Chen and Crystal Liu and everybody else perfectly but Lee Hom gave me problems; half the time I have no idea what he was saying. He sounds lazy and he speaks like he sings. Which is why I said I doubt his lyrics writing ability quite simply because half the time I can't understand him. You can compare him with the other musical thespian more famous than he is who wrote, directed and starred in his own movie that is Jay Chou except these days I can understand Jay Chou better. I think working for Zhang Yimou really helps with his music and acting performances. Of course Lee Hom can boast he worked for Ang Lee too but seriously, in that movie that shall not be named, I didn't quite bother with his presence.

That is not to say he isn't charming. There are some funny scenes; like how one overeager designer dressed him in various impossible fashion to disguise his real identity. That scene is funny but in the end meaningless and darn ridiculous. Such an image consultant/designer will not get hired for those ridiculous fashion. And the actress was way over the top in her performance which for a moment made me wonder if this a slapstick comedy?

And yet the whole thing came crashing down to earth when he entered the university and had his I suppose first taste of Chinese music eventhough his concert at the beginning incorporated those elements already. Was he playing the Monkey God in the beginning? Anyway the improptu performance he gave to the headmaster together with his best friend guitarist showed that his Du Ming Han is quite well versed with Chinese instruments. And that was this movie's best scene. What a fun musical session! So I wonder, what motivates him to join the university? To get the girl? And yet he said he just wanted to be her friend, somewhere along the way he felt jealous when he saw a fellow student touching her and so there began the very short courtship.

And then the movie changed mode and focused on the troubles of the university; like some statement given by a serious musician, that youngsters today have no appreciation for classical music, in this case the Chinese classical music being our roots and our culture and so the musical event organised by the headmaster (who so happens to be the father of the girl of his dreams) was heading into trouble as the headmaster lamented the lack of students. And yet in the beginning when Du Ming Han was walking amongst the students I see plenty of students, many of them quite young. So if there is a lack of enrolment I wonder is the headmaster hoping for 200% enrolment? The solution to the headmaster's problem is Du Ming Han himself performing at the event to draw in youngsters but as far as I am concerned, apart from perhaps 2 modern music blended with the chinese classical music, he then performed his love ode to his dream girl on a piano in a rather modern sort of way, with lyrics written by her of course. She felt moved and so ran back to him. The anger, the pain, the rejection, the confusion, the betrayal, the humiliation, all solved with 1 song and I suppose in 1 or 2 days. I find that rather simplistic.

And that is why I find this movie lacking. It thrives to be important, expounding his views on classical music versus modern music and the amalgamation of these 2 different worlds into great tunes and yet at the same time filled it with nonsense such as needless slapstick and confusing visuals that made me think "are they on drugs?" and some surface wise heavy themes but looking deep down is just touch and go issues. All wrapped up in a friendly fan pleasing love story that neither advances his musical theory or impeding it; just that it was that. It is like as if the musician him is struggling with the popular him; do I make a movie about my passion or a movie to please others? Hence the confusing script.

You know a production that better illustrate this point? The Korean dramedy, Oh! My Lady. That series made the love affair between a hot young pop star and an older woman with child more believable, probably because it has a better script, better acted and a few more hours to tell the story properly. Or maybe, just maybe it doesn't pretend to be some social commentary and is just what it is.

However I like some visuals from this movie. The sequences where Ming Han was very seduced by the music played by Xiao Qing or the masters at the university. Lee Hom filled that with butterflies and the best of course a painting being painted, Chinese style as his character flew in it. There is promise in the visuals, you can feel his passion for this sort of music. And then the love story had to butt into that part and I felt rather ambushed by it.

There are however some visuals I didn't get. Like when Xiao Qing heard her lyrics being turned into a song in the hall, suddenly rain fell on her as she walked. She was wet. When she went back to Ming Han on the stage, she was still very wet. So when the whole sequence of rain falling on her and her alone, it was real?! And then they hugged, happily and immediately his fans roared with approval. Seriously, really? Why not try and get Wang Lee Hom to do that to rumoured girlfriend Crystal on the concert stage for real and let's see if the roar of approval is instantenous because I will bet it won't be. At least a 10 seconds silence or shock would be more realistic. His manager, Joan Chen crying alone when she found out he lied to her and willing to abandon his pop star status for love and I was thinking is she in love with him or is she just crying her rice bowl may break? When his car hit Xiao Qing she stayed on the road underneath the car to play the Chinese piano to which Ming Han heard and saw butterflies. I was like again, seriously? How cliche is that? And then he went in search of her, calling her an inspiration when I never got the impression he lacked inspiration at all. Maybe showing him as a talented but somehow down on his luck musician may better illustrate his need to find her or maybe a talentless pop star who actually has talent buried underneath when he heard her music and was inspired by it. As it is I don't see the motivation except a pop star on a self indulgent spree.

And that is basically what this movie is; an indulgent.

Performances wise, Joan Chen was wonderful as she should be.

Crystal Liu is mesmerising. I find her beautiful, intelligent looking and graceful. She gives me an impression she is classically trained musician herself because she was convincing when playing the chinese piano. A pity her character is so poorly written. No doubt she is in almost every single scene and yet I felt unsatisfied; I thought she was underused. She may be in each scene but she really had nothing much to do. Even when she had something to do like looking at the snotty classical trained senior, I was thinking if Xiao Qing in awe of him? In love with him? She lacked expressions thus making her a competent mesmerizing actress but not necessarily a great one. Something was missing. And in the end at the final concert I was hoping she would duet with Lee Hom's Ming Han like in earlier scenes but she was reduced to an angry jilted lover seduced by his love song and so rushed to him to love him back. I find that nonsensical. How great it would have been to have them as equals in music; she in classical music, he in modern music, both finding a common thread in music as the basis for their love and devotion for one another. Except it ended with them kissing, lamely if I might add with the whole paparazzi looking on. And frankly that is one message Lee Hom can bear in mind next time he is kissing someone he doesn't want her seen; just let them take the pictures. However one can't always live the life one preaches. I quite detest him for reducing Crystal into a prop; a prop that is sometimes dressed in her I suppose most famous role, Xiao Long Nu.

Lee Hom himself is not terrible. Some reviewers did note that he had no problems parodying himself or rather making himself as the joke and for that I applaud him. But I didn't like how he imagined he strangled the paparazzi who dared ask him about his rumoured relationships after a successful concert. That is not funny and I feel a tad crass. I don't believe Lee Hom is such a person. I find him classy and intelligent and very patient looking. Whatever anger issues he harboured, I believe this is the first I see, on screen. And since this is to be a documentary or a biopic on him, that may be his real feelings. But what do you expect from a life as an entertainer? You're public property, whether you like it or not. Your musical abilities confirms your talent but what fuels you is your popularity and that is derived from press' opinion of you. As they always say, bad publicity is better than no publicity at all. He tries very hard in this movie of his; he cast the right people, he writes the right music, he chooses the right subject but in the end as a director he was inadequate. Sometimes another person may be able to realise one's own vision so to relinquish the baton of directorship may have been the movie's best move. It is just silly how he narrates the movie, lost the narration half way, ends it with narration again, all those dream sequences (some well done and quite relevant) and the worst move, adding title sequences between scenes ala Babe to make a point, of which I really didn't quite care. His performance is ok but his story and directorship is everywhere. Which makes this movie nowhere.

You know what would have been a better movie that would serve his purpose of the debate of classical versus modern music and explaining his views why it doesn't matter? A real documentary. A documentary of a famous musician cum pop star from Taiwan called Wang Lee Hom on a journey of musical discovery through Chinese classical music and how in the end he discovered himself along the way, showing in visuals how he sees classical music, sequences on how he merges these two mediums and ends with a mini concert and an album. In between he can talk about his approach to music, why Chinese classical music, his vision, his hopes, his dreams. Like a 2 hour special, except with widescreen treament in the cinema with premieres and stuff. That sort of documentary can be released in cinemas and if well directed, could also be submitted for considertion of the Academy Awards for Documentaries. Rarely do I see a pop star approach in classical settings and moreover, who better than Wang Lee Hom, himself I believe has classical roots? After all he is not just a pretty face or a pop star, he is a serious musician who writes good music. That would have been a great "movie", one I would gladly watch in the cinemas.

A great pity of the potential this could have been.

Verdict
Musically, heavenly. Acting wise, hit and mostly miss thanks to a poor predictable superficial script. Entertainment wise, the music works, the movie itself failed. Overall, the full movie is strictly for fans but some parts are worth a watch. Now hoping someone would just cut out those musical parts and that 30 minutes or so would have my seal of approval as one of the best "musical" ever.

INTERESTING MUSIC
Frankly I can't differentiate between hip hop and R&B so to me an addictive tune is a good tune.

My favourite from the movie is not the main ballad which is to me typical Wang Lee Hom but the other one, the one he sang with the Chinese orchestra. Found it! Thanks to chriztna and juljin79 for the tip. The title is 十八般武艺 which is the title of his album. The chorus is awesome with his falsetto but the starting not quite. I hate the woah! and I wish he uses less autotune because it does sound like autotune and quite mechanical at parts. If it is not autotune then I am not sure why he sounds too manufactured. English, Chinese lyrics all here. Did he sing all that?! By the way the English translation I believe is literal.



CLEAR VERSION
Click the embedded player to listen. If there is one great thing about Love In Disguise, it is this song, 十八般武艺 which becomes better with each listen. I was curious what the title means and the translator just says "Be Versatile" although the literal translation is 18 Martial Arts. I wonder is that actually meaning "Be Versatile"?






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3 comments:

  1. "Anyway the improptu performance he gave to the headmaster together with his best friend guitarist showed that his Du Ming Han is quite well versed with Chinese instruments. And that was this movie's best scene. What a fun musical session! So I wonder, what motivates him to join the university? To get the girl? And yet he said he just wanted to be her friend, somewhere along the way he felt jealous when he saw a fellow student touching her and so there began the very short courtship."

    I didn't take the movie seriously. So, I just buy his reasoning i.e. finding a 'ji yam'. Xiao Qing's music is the only music that gives him that butterfly feeling. He thinks it's special. So, he go after her.

    In one of Du Ming Han's daydream, there's one story that talk about Bai Ya destroying his beloved musical instrument and vowed never to play music again after his 'ji yam' Zhong Zi Qi died because no one can understand his music as well as Zhong Zi Qi anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Which is why this movie is at odds with itself. It wants to be lighthearted and yet added such stuff like that daydream like there's a deeper meaning to it. But why is the girl "ji yam yau"? Because he saw butterflies? I would have liked it if he is someone who has never exposed himself to cultural music and ignores his roots, like some empty sort of celebrity pop star when suddenly he hears that beautiful music and so he became intrigued. As of now the story is terribly flawed. I hope Lee Hom doesn't take it too seriously either. You know some stars, I can write, direct and act therefore let me win an award sort of attitude when frankly they're miles away from that.

    However the music... woah! Good stuff!

    ReplyDelete
  3. And I remember the girl cut her piano's strings as well, which to show there is the ji yam connection which was never established in the movie.

    ReplyDelete

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