"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.
Fleeing by Night
Drama / Romance
Fleeing by Night
Drama / Romance
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Set in China in the 1930s, the film is about the unsettling relationship between three characters. Ing'er, the daughter of a theatre-owner, welcomes the return of Shao-dung, her fiancee and a fine cellist from America. Shao-dung soon finds himself captivated by the opera "Fleeing By Night" and its celebrated actor, Lin Chung, whose voice seems to articulate something within himself. While Shao-dung attempts to blend eastern and western music, Ing'er becomes torn between her affection for both men, and an awareness of the growing intimacy between them.
Uploaded by: FREEMAN
August 02, 2022 at 06:51 PM