By MICHAEL CHEANG - Friday November 25, 2005
When he was in Kuala Lumpur recently to promote Perhaps Love, the first Chinese musical film in 30 years; director Peter Chan Ho-sun took every opportunity to remind everyone of one very important thing – that the movie is NOT a musical.
“Perhaps Love is a love story, not a musical. It’s not even being promoted as a musical,” the long-haired, bespectacled director kept stressing over and over again. “It is not a musical in the conventional sense. My characters don’t break out into song.
“Initially, it was a challenge to balance the over-the-top element in musicals and the subtleties of a movie. In the end, the method I used to overcome that was to make a movie-within-a-movie.”
In the movie, Takeshi Kaneshiro plays actor Lin Jian Dong, the star in a new musical helmed by renowned director, Nie Wen (Jacky Cheung). Coincidentally, Lin’s co-star, Sun Na (Zhou Xun), is a former lover who left him a decade earlier for Nie who made her a star.
Ironically, the musical they are starring in centres on a love triangle which features Lin and Sun in leading roles, with director Nie (playing the role of the circus owner) as the third part of the triangle. In it, an amnesiac woman who has forgotten everything (even her lover) is saved from the streets by a generous circus owner, whom she later falls in love with. However, when she recovers her memory, she finds herself torn between her past and present.
At the same time, an angel called Montage (played by Korean actor Ji Jin-hee) appears in Shanghai yearning for a taste of genuine human emotions, and is drawn towards the jealousy, hatred and passion that ensue within the love triangle.
According to Chan, the movie musical that Perhaps Love resembles the most would be 1972’s Cabaret, starring Liza Minnelli and Michael York. “Cabaret is not a classic musical-type musical. It is very realistic. That was what I was trying to achieve with this movie,” he explained during an interview at GSC Midvalley Golden Lounge in Kuala Lumpur recently.
As he stresses over and over again, Perhaps Love is all about love, a subject that he is very familiar with, having made his name with critically acclaimed love stories such as 1994’s He’s A Woman, She’s A Man (which was awarded the Best Film of the Year by the Directors Guild of Hong Kong), and 1997’s Comrades: Almost a Love Story, which won an unprecedented nine awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards that year, including Best Film and Best Director.
Perhaps Love is a film that defines every single aspect of love in a single film, said Chan. “Everything I could think of in terms of love and relationships is in that movie. It depicts different levels of maturity in love, and everyone who watches it will have a different view of it, depending on how old you are.”
To pull off a multi-layered love story movie-cum-musical like this, choosing the proper cast was immensely important. Fortunately, Chan managed to get all three of his first choice actors for the three main roles – Taiwanese heartthrob actor Takeshi Kaneshiro, Hong Kong’s veteran actor/singer Jacky Cheung and established actress-singer Zhou Xun from China. Rounding up the multi-national cast is Korean star Ji Jin-hee (Jewel in the Palace).
Chan described Zhou Xun as a “very likeable and emotionally effecting girl who can make you cry”. “The character of Sun Na is that of a girl who has to give up something very precious to her. For that, I needed a real actress, and Zhou Xun was my first choice for the role,” said Chan.
“In Takeshi’s case, he was the only actor I knew who looks naive enough to love someone for 10 years,” Chan laughed. “It was also important that he was not young enough to look too naive, and at the same time, he also didn’t look so old that he just looks stupid.
Another leading cast member who was Chan’s first choice was Korean actor Ji Jin-hee, who was roped in after Andy Lau was forced to pull out due to contractual problems. “Initially, we had planned for Lau to be a talk-show-host-like narrator who introduces the film and the characters, but when he pulled out, we changed the intro into a slower one and cast Ji Jin-hee as an angel who rekindles memories in the lead characters instead.”
Chan said that Perhaps Love was one of the most stressful movies he’d ever made. “I think I aged five years in last 10 weeks I was making the film! It was a very scary process, and it was the most stressful (movie) set I’ve ever been on. Every day was a gamble to see if we could finish filming what we’d set out to film, and I felt very uneasy at the end of each day,” he recalled. “Furthermore, the fact that I had not shot a single full-length Chinese film in the last 10 years gave me even more pressure.”
As for the future, Chan doubts he would be attempting something as elaborate and complex as Perhaps Love. In fact, he admits to be a little bit sick of filming love stories for now.
One thing is for sure though, we won’t be seeing any action movies from this director. “I have no interest at all in action movies. Even when I am watching them on a VCD, I tend to fast-forward all the action bits where there is no one talking.” One of his dream projects would be to make a realistic Chinese period film.
“Many period films today do not have an element of realism. There is always the feeling that what you see on-screen is all made-up and fake,” he lamented.
“I want to make a film that will give you the realism of that particular age, and show the real way of life back then, and make you feel as though you’ve gone back in time.”
Perhaps Love was funded by Astro Shaw, with worldwide distribution by Celestial Pictures. The movie will open on Dec 7.
Source: The Star - Malaysia