×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Eighteen Springs

After her 1984 feature "Love in a Fallen City," Hong Kong filmmaker Ann Hui again adapts the work of the late, highly regarded Chinese novelist Eileen Chang. A melancholy melodrama about thwarted love and injurious emotional choices in '30s Shanghai, "Eighteen Springs" boasts a strong cast, handsome production values and solid, if conventional, direction, but fails to ignite the passion required to propel it far beyond Chinatown circuits. Scattered festival bookings should follow nonetheless. Central couple are Manzhen (Wu Chien-lien) and Shijun (Leon Lai), who meet in Shanghai through Shijun's friend Shuhui (Wang Lei) and swiftly fall in love. The first of many obstacles is placed in their path by Shijun's parents back in Nanjing, who intend for him to marry a wealthy girl from the same city (Annie Wu). She instead develops a romantic affinity with Shuhui, who backs off because of his class inferiority.

With:
Shen Shijun ..... Leon Lai Gu Manzhen ..... Wu Chien-lien Gu Manlu ..... Anita Mui Zhu Hongcai ..... Ge You Xu Shuhui ..... Wang Lei Shi Cuizhi ..... Annie Wu Zhang Yujin ..... Wang Zhiwen

Further problems arise from Manzhen’s scruples about the taint on Shijun’s name that would come from marriage into her family, given the reputation of her older sister Manlu (Anita Mui), who is a sought-after courtesan. Forced into prostitution to support her family following the death of her father, Manlu is now hard, embittered and pushing 30. She agrees to marry creepy businessman Hongcai (Ge You), despite the fact that repeated abortions have left her unable to bear children. When Hongcai starts hankering for Manzhen and proposes taking her as his concubine and the mother of his children, Manlu colludes in the plan in order to save her marriage.

Hui and scripter Chan Kin-chung could have made the story more resonant for Western audiences by placing it more firmly within its socio-historical context: The Japanese presence in China at that time, and the resulting repression, is touched on only in passing.

But despite its slow pace and somewhat stolid feel, the film remains engrossing thanks to some fine players, drawn from Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. Wu (“Eat Drink Man Woman”) and Cantopop star Lai bring poignancy to the plight of the unfulfilled lovers, and the pairing of consummate actors Mui and mainlander Ge (“To Live”) provides some real pleasures. Lenser Lee Ping-bin’s elegant framing adds distinction to the classy production. Chinese title roughly means “Half a Lifetime’s Romance,” under which English name Chang’s novel is also known.

Popular on Variety

Eighteen Springs

Hong Kong

Production: A Mandarin Films production. Produced by Raymond Wong, Leung Fung-yee. Executive producers, Ann Hui, Wang Yu. Directed by Ann Hui. Screenplay, Chan Kin-chung, based on the novel by Eileen Chang.

Crew: Camera (color), Lee Ping-bin; editors, Wong Yee-shun, Poon Hung; music, Ye Xiaogang; art direction, Bruce Yu, Yank Wong; costume design, Eddie Mok. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival, Oct. 5, 1997. (Also in Pusan Film Festival, South Korea.) Running time: 123 MIN.

With: Shen Shijun ..... Leon Lai Gu Manzhen ..... Wu Chien-lien Gu Manlu ..... Anita Mui Zhu Hongcai ..... Ge You Xu Shuhui ..... Wang Lei Shi Cuizhi ..... Annie Wu Zhang Yujin ..... Wang Zhiwen

More Film

  • Kanye West

    Kanye West to Preview ‘Jesus Is King’ Album and Film in Los Angeles on Wednesday

    On the heels of Monday’s announcement that Kanye West’s delayed “Jesus Is King” album will be released on Friday along with a companion IMAX film, the rapper will preview both projects at the Forum in Los Angeles on Wednesday, it was announced this morning. Tickets for the “Jesus Is King Album & Film Experience” will be [...]

  • Isabelle HuppertIsabelle Huppert Life Achievement Award,

    The Arcs Festival Taps Isabelle Huppert to Head The Talent Village For Young Helmers

    Guillaume Nicloux, the French director of “Valley of Love,” is set to preside over the jury of the Arcs Film Festival, while the iconic French actress Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”) will be the patron of the second edition of the Talent Village. Created last year, the Talent Village is a development workshop and platform for emerging [...]

  • Isaac Perlmutter Disney Marvel

    Does Kevin Feige's Marvel Promotion Mean Ike Perlmutter's Endgame?

    Last week’s move giving Kevin Feige charge of Marvel’s television, animation and print editorial operations should come as no surprise. As the architect of the company’s enormous film success, Feige arguably has the most enviable track record of any contemporary entertainment executive. Extending his creative control over more of the Marvel universe seems like a [...]

  • Santa Barbara

    Anais Pareto Onghena Brings ‘Santa Barbara’ WIP to Impulso Morelia

    Having impressed at the Morelia Intl. Film Festival in the past with her short films, Spanish born, Mexican trained filmmaker Anaïs Pareto Onghena returns to the Michoacán capital with her latest feature “Santa Bárbara,” participating in the Impulso Morelia works in progress sidebar. Bárbara, a Bolivian woman living in Barcelona for more than a decade, [...]

  • Anna Movie

    EuropaCorp's U.S. Arm Gets Six-Month Debt Waiver From Paris Court

    EuropaCorp Films USA, the U.S. arm of Luc Besson’s Paris-based company, has been granted a six-month debt waiver from a French commercial court. Parent company EuropaCorp has already been on a six-month debt waiver since May, and the protection is supposed to come to an end in late November. A source close to the company [...]

  • Charles Tesson, Katrin Pors and John

    Morelia, Locarno Festivals Host Fifth Academy for Young Professionals

    Mexico’s Morelia Intl. Film Festival (FICM) and Locarno Academy are hosting the fifth edition of their joint academy for young professionals at this year’s festival, supported by the Mexican Film Institute (IMCINE) and the Ibermedia program. The Morelia/Imcine-Locarno Intl. Industry Academy – it’s official name . counts as one of a series of Academies hosted [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content