At last! Having seen CTHD 8 years ago in a tiny, peeling cinema on the edge of Hong Kong, in Mandarin with complex character subtitles, the mystery is over. Well, as much as it will ever be.
Last night we watched it on the widescreen laptop (still feeling virtuous without TV?) and rather enjoyed ourselves. Watching it without any language aids, I had managed to get the plot's outline... sort of! But it was helpful to have a little more understanding second time round. I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was, the humour took the edge off the po faces, and we both found ourselves moved by the yearning and tragedy of the middle-aged people's plot.
The young people were a bit more annoying ;-)
Hmm... the dialogue was not always wonderful, it has to be said. Possibly because of the translation, possibly because of the conventions of the genre, possibly because of the different dramatic expectations of Chin ese dramatic culture. Anyhow, I'm sad to say that sometimes it reminded me of the dialogue in another recent film, Until Death (2007), a Van Damme attempt at 'drama-with-action', rather than 'action film'. Despite his reasonable efforts, the script was awful and the turning points of the plot entirely implausible, and even the action scenes were disastrous. I can't understand how it got a 6.1 average on IMDB! ...enough griping.
CTHD also raised some interesting themes. Western Ch ina, where the noble family of Zhang Ziyi moved when she was a young child is portrayed as beautiful, but no one lives there but noble criminals just begging to be sinified, if only they knew it. Hmm. Meanwhile, the Han-Manchurian difference, which I only properly learned about (exciteable child that I am, I'm still full of the discovery and more to be discovered) a month ago watching The Last Emperor (1987) [I get all my knowledge from films, like everyone else], reading Patricia Buckley Ebrey's Cambridge History of the place and a visit to the Lama Temples (with its 18th century four-language signs) in the capital at Easter. It pops up as Lo persistently mistakes Jen for a Han in the extended Gobi flashback, until she proudly disabuses him of that; not to mention in the slap foreheads and fake pigtails ;-)
On the DVD extras, Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat come across very well indeed - extremely likeable. And as I type this I'm listening to the director and producer's commentary on the first few minutes of the film. Very witty.