Story: Famous director Nie Wen (Jacky Cheung) once again wants to prove himself as a genius of art, and starts
to work on
a musical. The lead role is played by starlet Sun Na (Zhou Xun) who already worked together with Nie Wen in several
movies before and also forms a couple with him behind the camera. As her on-screen partner in the musical Jian-dong
(Takeshi Kaneshiro), a Hong Kong movie star is casted.
The musical is about a girl, played by Sun na, that has lost her memory and is taken care of by a ringmaster. He makes her a showgirl who becomes very popular and he starts to fall in love with her. However, one day the former boyfriend of the girl attends the show by accident and recognizes her. He has to find out, that his girlfriend can't remember him anymore. Furthermore, the ringmaster goes to any lengths to avoid that the girl is taken away from him by the new rival.
Since there is no actor to be found for the role of the ringmaster Nie Wen takes on the role himself. Reality and musical are blent together, because Sun Na and Jian-dong were a couple themselves a long time ago. Why their paths were seperated is directly connected to Nie Wen and so Wen soon starts to rewrite the script over and over again so that in the end reality is perfectly reflected by the musical...
Review: To call "Perhaps Love" a musical would be wrong. To compare it to "Moulin Rouge" would be even more
wrong. Actually, Peter Chan's newest work is a typical love triangle story, that is reflected in a film within a film or
rather in a musical within a film. This gives the end product something special, yet has the unpleasent side effect that
the movie feels a little bit dissected. The audience always has a certain distance to the events on screen and only
in the musical scenes emotions can be conveyed through the medium music. However, here the protagonists act as someone
else. This makes the movie frustrating at points, especially since we don't get presented the common fluffy lovestory,
but instead a drama which becomes predominant throughout the movie.
Zhou Xun ("Beijing Bicycle") does a good job as the slightly haughty Sun na, who is only looking for success. With time we can take a glance at what's behind her mask. She once was a whole different person, which is depicted by several flashbacks with her former boyfriend Jian-dong. Although living in very poor circumstances she was a loveable girl and had a great time with her boyfriend. Yet, when she did get the opportunity to enter film business she left him out of the blue, which is something he could never really get over with. Now, after several years the two are reunited again, but Sun Na doesn't want to hear anything about their shared past.
Takeshi Kaneshiro ("House of Flying Daggers") also can show what he's worth in terms of acting. His emotional scenes are very convincing, yet for some strange reason the chemistry between him and his female collegue just isn't the way it is supposed to be. Only near the end we can commiserate with the two, but that's just a bit too late.
It's hard to describe with words why the love story doesn't work the way it was meant to. Anyway, it's definitely not Jacky Cheung who is the one to blame. Despite his sometimes rather cold performance as the director, he manages on a subtle level to arouse the most emotions in the viewer. So it's no wonder, that the finale between him and Sun na in vertiginous height on a snowy set is a dramatic and artistic highlight. Here, Peter Chan finally succeeds in doing what he somehow didn't manage to do in the rest of the movie. He perfectly interweaves music, emotions and drama, leading to a very moving ending, in which as it is often the case in "Perhaps Love" the line between reality and fiction gets blurry.
Another interesting character is Monty, who is played by Ji Jin-hee ("H"). He is the keeper of memories and is responsible that no one of them gets lost. His role is slightly mystified and one can't help but to think that he doesn't direct the fate of our protagonists without a reason. Even though he never reveals anything about his actual motives Ji Jin-hee delivers a fine performance, that sometimes is even in contrast to the depressing atmosphere.
Jacky Cheung ("July Rhapsody") doesn't only give a successful comeback as an actor, but once again can prove that he has an incredible voice and singing talent. His powerful voice by far outshines the actually fine efforts of the rest of the characters. Of course Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhou Xun and Ji Jin-hee can also prove that they are not untalented in singing, whereas you can also hear that Ji did take great pains to learn a fluent mandarin.
About the music itself: Peter Kam and Leon Ko have done a very good job. Normally, I'm everything but a musical-fan, but here every single piece of music is very well composed and adds a lot to the movie's atmosphere. Furthermore, the singing is never in the center of events, which is the reason why nearly everyone can watch this film.
As already said, it's really unfortunate that despite the good story about a musical within a film, the muscial can never fuse with the movie. Instead reality and fiction merely overlap every now and then. One of the reasons for this surely is that one seemingly haphazardly edited and cut the movie. At the end everything feels like different pieces strung together. The way of narration also adds to this fact.
Concerning the direction there is nothing to criticize. Peter Chan ("Comrades: Almost a Love Story") shows that he is artistically very skilled and he bestows a qualitatively slick wrapping upon the movie. Of course, this is also the merit of the cinematography of the two masters Peter Pau and Christopher Doyle. Pompous sets and costumes complete the good overall picture.
"Perhaps Love" doesn't only shed some light on the feeling of love, but also on the emotions, that go hand in hand with it, like hate, jealousy or feelings of revenge, obsession or the extent in which you are willing to sacrifice yourself for love. Sadly, the movie oftentimes lacks the power and intensity to convey these feelings. Apart from that you have to pay your respects to the film, as it didn't go the easy way to create a happy-colourful Musical. The underlaying mood is more of a sad one and even the ending isn't immoderately conciliatory. If you keep that in mind when watching the movie you will surely be entertained. It's just a shame that "Perhaps Love" can't be really moving. Well, at least the ending can make up for it again.
Chan's work isn't the masterpiece we might have hoped for, nevertheless the film isn't only of interest for musical-enthusiasts!