Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Taylor Wong & Herman Yau's No More Love No More Death (1993)

Love: Tai Zi (Jacky Cheung) is driving in his convertible sportscar at night while the sweetly innocuous score plays over. He's dressed slickly and with his sunglasses on at night. His eyes are taken with a poster of a model/dancer, Chen (Rosamund Kwan), inside of a storefront display. Tai Zi stops abruptly and gazes obsessively at the photo. He pulls his scoped magnum revolver from the inside of his jacket and fires a platinum bullet at the glass. It breaks, and he removes the poster to take it home.
Love?: Tai Zi is raised by Bai Hu (Chan Yuen), a crime boss. Bai Hu has a poor heart and is a paraplegic yet is full of emotion. He puts young Tai Zi on his knee to tell him the story of his mother who is no longer around--Quing Lung (Wai-man Chan) took care of her. Bai Hu cages a mouse and forces his son to pour boiling water upon it. Later, Tai Zi, now a young man, walks in upon his father who is being pleasured by a kneeling woman. Bai Hu tells Tai Zi to take the woman's body yet never take anything else from her. In La Femme Nikita fashion, Bai Hu after a fancy dinner meal tells Tai Zi to kill one of the patrons (a henchman of his rival). Reluctantly, Tai Zi complies and is haunted by the incident in his dreams. Bai Hu rolls into his bedroom with a final birthday gift--a cake which opens to reveal Jing Jing (Carina Lau) who becomes Tai Zi's literal gift. Jing Jing becomes Tai Zi's devoted lover and accomplice: Tai Zi's the top killer and Quing Long is back in town. Long is Tai Zi's next target, yet beautiful Chen becomes Tai Zi's biggest obsession.John Woo left an indelible mark on Hong Kong cinema with A Better Tomorrow (1986) up to his Hard Boiled (1992) before leaving for Hollywood. Not only did Woo's cinema create a legacy but it also created a market where Taylor Wong and Herman Yau's No More Love No More Death (1993) is undeniably spawned. No More Love No More Death is a sociopath of a film: utterly charming, mimicking Woo's soft light with occasionally slow-motion shots, stickily-sweet music score, and lots of sunglasses, raincoats, big guns, and languid posing; yet there is a complete undercurrent of sick and twisted behavior and happenings. Woo's "balletic operatic gunplay" films were certainly romantic: lots of bullets spent and lots of blood spilled while characters frequently fell in love and poured over in emotion. Woo never reached the heights of schism: his HK gunplay films were always sentimental. Wong and Yau's film goes for Woo romanticism in execution (by adopting many a motif from all of his films), yet the end result of No More Love No More Death is a Woo-inspired film, unchecked and unhinged.Lau's Jing Jing, objectively, should be resentful: people should not be given as "gifts" to others, and her character would be quite justified if she began to show some rebellion. This is not the case, however, as No More Love wants to keep its Woo romanticism at all costs. Jing Jing does become resentful, but her resentment stems from Tai Zi's love for Chen and Tai Zi's total absence of romantic love towards her. Her unrequited love fuels her loyalty towards Tai Zi towards the film's violent and would-be tragic ending. Kwan's Miss Chen is free to fall in love with whomever she desires; however, when a scoped magnum with platinum bullets is pointed in her face, one would intuitively think that its holder is probably not a suitable candidate for a relationship. Miss Chen is willing to look past this behavior with Tai Zi and uncover the real person deep down inside of him. Finally, this jewel of a character, Tai Zi, has a fondness for a "lonely heart" radio program where lovers write into the show. Their letters are read aloud by the DJ and their stories are heartbreaking about lost love. Tai Zi actually writes a letter to this show, and its substance is jaw-dropping. No More Love No More Death is filled with characters with some serious personality disorders. The overwhelming desire by Wong and Yau to inject the film with romanticism to cash in on the immediate market made by John Woo's cinema failed to capture the sentimentalism of his successes. It is almost as if the more romantic Wong and Yau attempted to make the film, then the more disturbing it became. It is doubtful that this was intentional, but No More Love is undeniably compelling. There is such a grandeur to its excesses and incredulous beauty. Cheung, Kwan, and especially Lau (three of Hong Kong's biggest actors) deserve a lot of praise: like their characters, these actors believe in their performances and execute accordingly. The effective performances only enhance the disturbing nature of the film: like sociopaths, truly believing in their delusional behavior gives the film an energy and a resonance yet reinforcing how dysfunctional the whole proceedings are. Not to forget to mention that the majority of No More Love's characters are violent people: the only irony, here, is in watching it and being grateful these folks only exist in cinema. What a phenomenal train wreck. God bless Wong and Yau.

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