Xin Buliao Qing; C’Est la Vie, Mon Cheri

Hong Kong B.O. smash "C'est la Vie, Mon Cheri" earns curiosity status primarily in that it eschews high-kicking action for heart-tugging romantic tragedy. Catchy sentimental fare is easy to be swept along by but just as easy to forget and looks unlikely to tickle tear ducts beyond Chinatown circuits.

Hong Kong B.O. smash “C’est la Vie, Mon Cheri” earns curiosity status primarily in that it eschews high-kicking action for heart-tugging romantic tragedy. Catchy sentimental fare is easy to be swept along by but just as easy to forget and looks unlikely to tickle tear ducts beyond Chinatown circuits.

Local heartthrob Andy Lau plays Ah Kit, a talented but frustrated jazz musician held back by his own quick temper. Testiness with the music industry invades his private life, causing him to split with chart-topping singer Tracy (Carina Liu). Moving into a low-rent neighborhood, he encounters childlike Ah Man (Yuen Wing-yi), and her unflagging exuberance gradually drags the jaded loner out of his shell.

Ah Man imitates popular singers (including Tracy) on pirate tapes for additional earnings. Though Yuen’s performance registers a little heavily on the expansive side, this midsection has a buoyant tempo and a fair share of contagious charm that makes its syrupiness palatable.

As friendship upgrades to romance, a ray of hope creeps into the couple’s respective careers, only to be promptly tarnished when Ah Man’s childhood brush with bone cancer resurfaces. Her anger gives Ah Kit the chance to match her earlier inspirational behavior, and even go-getting career girl Tracy makes a sympathetic showing as pic soars to its unabashedly weepy finale.

Lau’s sensitive but measured turn keeps the material from becoming risibly saccharine. Use of music is less even-handed. Cantonese opera brackets (directed by Lee Fung) are entertainingly played by an engaging supporting cast, and also help to elevate pic above mush level. Tech credits are par.

Xin Buliao Qing; C'Est la Vie, Mon Cheri

Production: A Film Unlimited production. Produced by Ng Yui-ming. Executive producer, Chan Mong-wa. Directed, written by Yee Tung-shing.

Crew: Camera (color), Tam Tsi-wai; editors, Mei Fung, Kwong Tsi-teung; music, Peter Pau; art direction, Hai Tsung-man; sound, Stephen Chan. Reviewed at Rotterdam Intl. Film Festival, Jan. 28, 1994. (Also in Berlin Film Festival.) Running time: 100 MIN.

With: With: Andy Lau, Yuen Wing-yi, Carina Liu, Carrie Ng, Fong Bo-bo, Cheun Pui, Sylvia Chang.

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