NIGHT PEACOCK (aka LE PAON DE NUIT) (2016) review

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The sixth film of Chinese-French author and director Dai Sijie, Night Peacock tells of Elsa (Crystal Liu Yifei), a musician who spends her time between France and China. In the western city of Chengdu, she meets Ma Rong (Leon Lai) an expert player of the Shakuhachi flute who owns a silkworm factory. Elsa soon becomes both fascinated by silkworms – living beings that have to be sacrificed so that precious silk may be extracted – and infatuated with Ma Rong. But she also meet Lin (Yu Shaoqun), a young opera singer who’s in love with her to the point of following her around, breaking into her room and trying on her high-heels. But the film unfolds in non-linear fashion, with the other half of the scenes taking place later in Paris, where Elsa learns she’s pregnant (we don’t know whom from yet), and meets Ma Rong’s younger brother Ma Jianmin (Liu Ye), an undocumented tattoo artist who marvels at her skin and offers to adorn her back with a tattoo of a night peacock, a beautiful but rare and short-lived butterfly. Soon, Elsa and Jianmin are in love.

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THE GUEST (2016) review

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Im Dae-woong’s Sino-Korean thriller The Guest stars Leon Lai as Kai, an executive who’s made to take the fall for his company when his subordinate makes a grave professional mistake. Now out of a job and owing a hefty sum in compensation to the company for which he’s been working tirelessly for years, while having just started renting an upscale apartment with his wife Lin Lin (Han Chae-young), he goes out and gets drunk to forget his troubles for a few hours. Finding himself completely wasted in the middle of the night, he’s picked up by a mysterious, unregistered cab driver (Geng Le), to whom he drunkenly rants about his professional woes. The cab driver lends him an attentive ear, and the two even stop on the way for some more drinks. But Kai hasn’t got his wallet with him at the moment, so he gives the driver his business card, telling him they’re now friends and he’ll pay him the next day. He doesn’t yet know how much the cab driver is going to take these words to heart…

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An Interview with Eugenia Yuan

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The daughter of action queen Cheng Pei Pei, Eugenia Yuan made it clear from the very beginning of her film career that she was to fly with her own wings. Once a rhythmic gymnast for the U.S. Olympic Team, her debut performance on the big screen, in Peter Chan’s Three: Going Home, got her both a nomination for Best Supporting Actress and a win for Best New Performer at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Since then her filmography has been both international and free of genre pigeonholing, and she has shown a remarkable versatility as a performer. Recently her turn as a venomous blind enchantress was one of the best things about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, and she was kind enough to answer our questions.

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THE SECRET (2016) review

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Kai-Feng (Leon Lai) just lost his wife Qiu-Jie (Wang Luodan) in an avalanche during a romantic climbing trip in the Himalayas. Unable to cope with this loss, he seeks the counsel of a psychic on how to bring her back. And one morning there she is, seemingly in the flesh, though with only partial memories of her life. But the psychic has warned Kai-Feng: the spirit of his wife can only be seen by those who truly love her, and if she ever learns that she’s a spirit, she will disappear forever. Thus Kai-Feng does his best to maintain the fragile balance through which they can live together blissfully with their son Mu-Mu in their house, though soon his cousin Jimmy (JJ Lin) is in on the secret. One day however, Qiu-Jie realizes some people cannot see her: crushed by the realization that she’s only a spirit, she starts planning her departure from this world. That is, until she hears on the news that a body has been found on the site of the avalanche in the Himalayas…

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LADY OF THE DYNASTY (2015) review

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A troubled project which started pre-production in 2009 with My Sassy Girl director Kwak Jae-Yong at the helm and Fan Bing Bing, John Lone and Wang Leehom as its leads, Lady of the Dynasty finally reached completion and release in 2015, after a series of starts and stops that saw Kwak replaced by Shi Qing (a man whose sole previous credit is as a writer on the 1989 Zhang Yimou thriller Codename Cougar) on the basis of artistic differences, while Leon Lai and Wu Chun stepped in to replace Lone and Wang, respectively ; Zhang Yimou and Tian Zhuangzhuang (director of The Go Master) chimed in as consultants and get co-directing credits. But for a film that spent so much time in the oven and had so many cooks, Lady of the Dynasty turns out oddly half-baked. It focuses on Yang Guifei (Fan Bingbing), one of the “Four Great Beauties of Ancient China” who has already been the subject of many films and TV series, most notably Kenji Mizoguchi’s Princess Yang Kwei-Fei (1955), the 1962 Shaw Brothers film The Magnificent Concubine and the 2007 mini-series Lotus Garden of Tang Dynasty, already starring Fan Bingbing. Chosen by Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty (Leon Lai) and his concubine Wu (Joan Chen) to marry their son Li Mao (Wu Chun), she then left him to be a Taoist monk, before being chosen by the emperor to become his concubine. Later, when a rebellion broke out, the emperor fled with her but was then asked to execute her as a scapegoat.

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