Fleeing by Night

2000 [CHINESE]

Drama / Romance

0
IMDb Rating 7.5 10 435

Plot summary


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August 02, 2022 at 06:51 PM

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1280*694
Chinese 2.0
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24 fps
2 hr 0 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by toclement 10 / 10

provocative, confusing, overly ambitious, and mesmerizing

"Fleeing by Night" is far from a perfect film, but it is the most enthralling thing I have seen on the big screen in months. It's a movie that I have been thinking about and re-thinking about since I left the cinema, and isn't that what a good film does to its viewer?

The backdrop of the film is pre-war, pre-Japanese-invasion China, a young woman, Ing'er, is the daughter of a wealthy businessman who, among other enterprises, runs an opera house. She is captivated by and admires from a distance the talent and beauty of the star of the troupe, Lin Chung. We learn that Lin Chung has a rare, special talent for Chinese opera that makes him an instant success on stage. We also learn very early on that he is a tortured soul having been orphaned as a baby and raised by his "master", the leader of the opera troupe. So, despite his countless admirers, his life is one without identity, working essentially as a slave in a circus act. His relationship with his troupe leader most closely resembles that of a prostitute-pimp relationship.

Things get interesting when Shaodung returns home from America, a young cellist who has been promised Ing'er as a wife. At first, bored and uninterested in the opera, he has one of those life-transforming moments when he hears (and sees) Lin Chung on the stage. The two young men finally meet, and despite some awkward early moments, the chemistry between them is undeniable and unavoidable.

Unlike most movies, this film climaxes about 2/3 into it in a scene in a car when the two men's affections for one another are tested. Due to fear, jealousy, shame, and hurt feelings, their window of opportunity is tragically missed. From there the film takes one tragic turn after another over-ambitiously trying to incorporate just about every tragedy imaginable: rape, murder, family scandal, foreign invasion, war, disease, prison, ... you name it. Although the film suffers for this, surprisingly when it all comes to an end, it doesn't feel as contrived as it could have had it been in less competent hands.

The film certainly has some flaws: First, it isn't until the Japanese invasion that you have a clear sense for what era the film is supposed to be taking place. It is somewhat obvious that it is set somewhere in the past, but there was a failure to truly capture that in the scenery, the characters, and costume design (unlike Wong Kar-Wai's "In the Mood for Love", for example). Second, despite the stereotypically tragic nature of the tale, the treatment of homosexuality was generally sympathetic. That is, with the exception of one horrible scene which was totally unnecessary and will make every gay and lesbian person cringe and sigh, "Oh, no, not again." And lastly, the narrative sequence at the end that carries us through the entire lives of the characters was somewhat awkward, though again, it was handled about as well as one could handle this technique.

In sum, "Fleeing by Night" is definitely a film to be seen by all; it's another brilliant example of Chinese cinema that is increasingly cornering the market on good sentimental tragedy-romances. Though not perfect, it's an amazing achievement and without doubt one of 2000's best movies.

Reviewed by B24 8 / 10

How to Say "Four Hankie Special" in Chinese

Apart from the 1948 Chrysler featured in many scenes that were ostensibly meant to depict China in about 1939, this is not a film to be challenged as to its settings. Everything about it suggests authenticity, even to the point of wondering whether it was based on fact. Although the story itself has some structural flaws in coherence, it is a very well made movie indeed.

I was struck by the musical score especially; it is by far one of the most expert blendings of Eastern and Western tonality I have heard in cinema. While traditional Chinese opera remains a mystery to me, I can appreciate how it must be essential to any full understanding of the story line. (Though "stagey" is the adjective that comes to mind, in terms of both the film and the opera within the film.)

Indeed, there is more than a little soap opera here. I am thinking Stella Dallas as played by Anna Mae Wong, or Love is A Many Splendored Thing with two guys in the main roles. But I am being facetious. I really liked this movie for its heart, and recommend it highly.

I do wish I had more information on the actors and director, however. I have no way of knowing whether this came out of Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or somewhere else.

Reviewed by Sinnerman 10 / 10

A Beautiful, Poignant Piece of Chinese Cinema

Set in Pre-War World II's China, `Fleeing by night' was filmed with a tinted vision of love in its various incantation. A central star-crossed love triangle forms the film's basic narrative, one that is fraud with hurdles of unrequited emotion, forbidden love and karmic twists of fate. All these elements culminated into an unexpectedly moving film and a poignant piece of Chinese cinema.

Despite its artsy trappings, this bittersweet melodrama (opening in Singapore this week), was a surprise box-office hit back home in Taiwan. One can understand why.

The cinematography was top rate. Each shot was framed with a hypnotic grace, designed to evoke a sense of nostalgic longing. The same can be said about its music, strategically employed to set the shifting mood throughout the story. The ensemble performances of the cast were also equally illuminating, generating genuine audience empathy for their characters. During many the unspoken scenes, the intensity on the screen was heightened by the nuanced articulation of its actors, bringing with it many stolen moments of clarity and poignancy.

(Spoilers Alert!!! Please proceed to the next paragraph if you have not seen the film as I will be revealing a major plot point in the below paragraph in my discussion of a scene from the movie.) Case in point, the scene where both male leads sat side by side in their car, juxtaposed by the beautifully captured shot of falling snow on the outside. Stirring strains of fiddling strings echoed in the air. The atmosphere was charged with a suspenseful undercurrent so gripping, the theatre I was in, sat silent with anticipation. For that scene, both of the male leads had reached a pivotal cross road in their relationship, and the path with which they choose would, unknown to them, profoundly impact the rest of their lives. Kudos to both actors for fleshing out their inner turmoil and conflicted emotion with such clarity, sensitivity and respectful subtlety. (This was my favourite scene of the entire film and arguably the emotional peak in its narrative arc).

Alas, as with most art house projects, this film does have one indulging misstep. The film seemed half an hour too long as the last quarter of the film was inundated with one too many elements of melodramatic plot devices. This unfortunately tilted the film's narrative balance slightly, thus diluting its overall emotional resonance. Prudent editing would definitely have helped in, not only improving its narrative flow, but elevating its quality to ‘Classics' calibre.{I.e. In the same league as `To Live'(Hou Zhe by Zhang Yi Mou) or `Xiu Xiu - the sent down girl'(Tian Yu by Joan Chen)}.

In retrospect, the above flaw is insufficient in toppling the overall achievement of `Fleeing by night'. I am won over by its beauty and sensitivity. I admired its old world nostalgia and respected its conviction in exploring challenging themes. By closing credits, this film has secured my two thumbs up. One of the most moving and thought provoking experience from Chinese cinema in a long long time.

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