Killer Imports: All About Women

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Killer Imports is a regular feature on Film Junk where we explore foreign-language films from around the world that haven’t yet had their chance to shine.

Tsui Hark, “the Steven Spielberg of Asia,” is a legendary figure in Asian cinema. He is a multi-talented individual who has produced, directed, written, and acted. He was involved with the A Better Tomorrow series with John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat. He was involved with the Once Upon a Time series with Jet Li. He was one of the Asian directors who failed to make Jean-Claude Van Damme a superstar. His recent work hasn’t gotten the acclaim of his earlier stuff, but I enjoyed Time and Tide and Seven Swords, somewhat.

All About Women is a comedy, a genre that Hark hasn’t been involved with for quite a while. I have not seen his earlier movies, but I was willing to give him a chance with this movie. He is credited as a director, producer and writer for this film. Unfortunately, this film won’t be restoring his legendary status.

All About Women is an accurate title insofar as the movie is not about all women. The three main characters are female and I would hazard to guess that they do not represent a cross section of all females, but rather a selection of exceptional lives: a business woman, a scientist, and a rock musician. There are males who play an important part in each of the females’ lives. When I think about it, if males had been cast in the female roles and vice versa, I don’t think the script would have needed to change. I think that’s a reflection of current society where males and females can achieve the same level of status if not necessarily pay level.

We are first introduced to a geeky, pheromone scientist (Xun Zhou) who has a problem being around men whom she is attracted to. She experiments with her pheromone patches, and ends up using them to attract a rock musician (Stephen Fung) whom she has fallen for. This rock musician is friends with a rebellious female rock musician (Lunmei Kwai) who was abandoned at an early age and has fixated on a pop star (Godfrey Kao). She imagines the pop star is with her and has imaginary conversations with him.

The successful businesswoman (Kitty Zhang) has problems keeping girlfriends because the men they are involved with are always falling in love with the businesswoman despite her every effort to dissuade their advances. She has a male assistant (Eddie Peng) who is her cousin, thus explaining why he is able to resist her charms. The male assistant falls for the female rock musician. The businesswoman gets involved in setting up a deal with an environmentalist (Alex Fong), but she uses an ordinary looking woman to impersonate her in order to prove to everyone that she is successful not because of her looks. Anyway, the pheromone patches end up being accidentally attached to some of the players in this story, and everything culminates in an outdoor rock performance on factory grounds with the bizarre sight of the business woman rocking out with an erhu. (An erhu is a Chinese musical string instrument.)

Many Asian films take their cues from American films, but this movie is not derived from Sex and the City. What makes me think that the movie should really be called “All About Men” is that each of the female leads does not have other female friends, so the females should really be males. Maybe I’m adopting the stereotypical viewpoint here, but it should be noted that the story and screenplay were developed by two men. Much of the movie follows each of the females separately. Circumstances in each of their storylines conspire to bring them together.

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The casting of Kitty Zhang as the businesswoman who charms men by her mere presence was quite appropriate. She really is drop-dead gorgeous. In real-life, she is only 20 years old, but she pulls off playing a 31 year-old with her confidence and bearing. I remember there was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Famke Janssen portrayed an alien female who men could not resist. To me, she was drop-dead gorgeous in the episode. Strangely, having seen Famke in other roles (she portrays Jean Grey in the X-Men movies), I don’t find her that attractive. I’ve seen Kitty before in Stephen Chow’s CJ7, but I didn’t recognize her. I remember thinking she was attractive in CJ7 as well.

The environmentally friendly professor is portrayed by Alex Fong, who reminds me of Harrison Ford, not in his appearance but in the way he carries himself in all his films. And like Ford, he seems adept at handling drama, action, and comedy.

This film is handsomely put together. Everything looks great. The sound editing is great. I don’t usually comment on sound editing, but it sort of stands out with weird noises being in the soundtrack to emphasize the comedy.

When I think about it, the plot is kind of inventive in the way it brings the lives of the females, and the males in their lives, together. But even as the film starts connecting people together, it doesn’t really build momentum. I think the film fails to create any empathy for the characters. I suppose the film is about the difficulty the women have in finding men to love them. I don’t think the women come off as being adorable enough to sympathize with them. Maybe the film avoids some of the bonding clichés of Hollywood romance films, but it hasn’t replaced these types of scenes with anything better.

Usually, Chinese comedy relies a lot on slapstick and flatulence jokes. Thankfully, there is none of the latter. For me, the comedy falls flat in this film, and I’m not quite sure if the actors are to blame. I only know of a few Chinese comedic actors. Stephen Chow of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle fame has made a lot of comedy films, but it’s only with the aforementioned films that I’ve really enjoyed his films. They don’t really make me laugh, but they have a goofy inventiveness to them.

I’ll give you a few examples of the type of humor you can expect in this movie. There’s one comedic set-piece in which the scientist has a problem applying contact lenses, so we see her try various methods. This is kind of inventive, if not overly amusing. During an auction, she inadvertently starts a bidding war. How many times have we seen that? Coincidentally, I happened to catch an episode of a television show called “Howie Do It” that pulls pranks on unsuspecting victims and one of the gags involved getting the victim to accidentally bid on an item. Then there’s a scene of her in a wedding gown being chased down the street by a horde of running grooms. I wonder if this is in homage to the Chris O’Donnell film, The Bachelor.

One bizarre translation issue I found is that the lyrics of a song sung in Chinese had an English translation where the lines rhymed. I can’t tell if the Chinese lyrics rhyme. I’m guessing the English translation doesn’t match the Chinese. Does anyone know how songs are translated from one language to another?

I guess I can’t recommend this film. I wasn’t bored by the film, but it doesn’t have any highlights. I suppose you won’t be seeing this film in Tsui Hark’s selected filmography.

The next film Tsui Hark will be directing is an action crime thriller starring Andy Lau. It’s tentatively called D-Project and is scheduled to start shooting in May. After all these years in the business, Tsui Hark must be doing something right.

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  • TheAllKnowingGod

    I’ve heard this film is a remake of Hark’s Peking Opera Blues, which is a masterpiece.

  • Based on your assessment, TheAllKnowingGod, I’ll have to find Peking Opera Blues.

    Did my plot summary of All About Women resemble the plot of POB?

  • TheAllKnowingGod

    It seems like a loose remake. Peking Opera Blues is a period film for one. The main connection seems to be the three main female characters. Goes All About Women have a scene where one of them is brutally tortured?

    Peking Opera Blues stars Brigitte Lin in one of her best roles. Oh yes!

  • No torture scene in All About Women.

  • It seems like a loose remake. Peking Opera Blues is a period film for one. The main connection seems to be the three main female characters. Goes All About Women have a scene where one of them is brutally.

  • TheAllKnowingGod, I’ll have to find Peking Opera Blues.