The Scoop: 2005 NR, directed by Peter Chan and starring Takeshi Kaneshiro, Xun Zhou, and Jacky Cheung
Summary Capsule: A movie within a movie musical about a love triangle between two actors and a director, that kinda turns into a hate triangle.
Eunice’s Rating: “Most dances are for people who are falling in love. The tango is a dance for those who have survived it, and are still a little angry about having their hearts so mishandled.”
Eunice’s Review: There is a movie musical being made in Shanghai about a girl who lost her memory being taken in by the ringmaster of a circus who falls in love with her. Then one day a young man who used to be the girl’s lover joins the circus and tries to help her remember her past.
The lead actress, also the director’s girlfriend, Sun Na, has no qualms exploiting people to reach her ultimate goal to go to Hollywood. Director Nie Wen is in a state of creative crisis, hating the idea of making a musical/love story, but doing it anyway for the money. Lin Jian-dong is a snobbish actor from Hong Kong who’ll be the male lead, and suffers from insomnia and does crazy stuff when strung out on sleeping pills. For some reason Lin likes to insult Sun Na by bringing up her poor beginnings and claims they know each other, while she says she ‘s never met him.
If you look up Perhaps Love the thing that’ll pop up the most (after John Denver) is comparisons to Moulin Rouge! And it make sense. Love triangle? Check. Musical? Yep. Story within a story? Definitely. But where Moulin Rouge! was about falling in love and love conquering all, Perhaps Love is about how love can rip you apart and leave a big festering wound.
Eventually, through flashbacks, we find out Lin and Sun Na (who went by “Monkey”) met ten years ago when he was a struggling film student and she was a struggling singer. Starting as friendship, Lin is drawn to Sun Na’s warmth and vitality and her to his kindness and stability. But as Sun Na makes the ugly vicious decisions needed to break into, much less succeed, in an ugly vicious business, it tears them apart.
Back in the present, when the actor for the secondary male role drops out Nie Wen steps in to play the Ringmaster. And that’s when all the emotional poo hits the fan. Sun Na has turned into a cold opportunist and rejects her past, especially the parts with Lin, pretending it never happened. Lin is shackled by the past, reliving the moment Sun Na broke his heart in his dreams, and getting pleasure out of hurting her. Nie Wen wants to recapture the past when he was still driven to create and be a great director. The parallel plot of the movie creates a perfect storm for these three people who live by playing make believe to have to confront all this messiness.
Even though there’s singing, it’s more about the drama. Takeshi Kaneshiro and Xun Zhou get the meat of the script both because their characters are in all three scenarios (the movie, real life, and the past) and because we see Sun Na and Lin before and after the breakup. While it is not Jacky Cheung’s fault, Nie Wen is the weak link getting a lot less screen time. We hear a lot about what he used to be, but it never really hits home. For such an important character, it’s too much tell not enough show.
As for the musical element, there could be more, but it uses the setting of the circus to come up with some nifty visuals. My favorite number, ‘Shi Ji Jie Tou’ (Crossroad), takes place in a ’20s style red light district, some creative editing in of both the past and present makes it pretty darn impactful. Also, even though it’s in Chinese I will still totally sing along to it and do some of the dance moves.
Perhaps Love is a drama that’s ultimately about closure, and won’t be for everyone.
But if you ever wanted to see what would’ve happened if Satine had married the Duke and Christian came back ten years later rich and itching for emotional revenge, well this is your movie.
- While the dialogue is available dubbed in different languages, the songs are Chinese only.
- All the actors do their own singing.
- Takeshi Kaneshiro is so purrrdy.
- Terrible friend! Is there no ‘bros before hos’ rule in China?
Monty: Life is like a film. Each of us plays the lead in our own film.
Nie Wen: Love stories are silly.
Biographer: What about love?
Sun Na: What love? No such thing.
Nie Wen: The truth is, hating someone is much more painful than being hated.
Sun Na: Remember this: The one who loves you most will always be yourself.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Moulin Rouge!
- House of Flying Daggers