The Mistress

(Cantonese, Mandarin and English dialogue)

(Cantonese, Mandarin and English dialogue)

A bad case of first-film-itis afflicts “The Mistress,” a technically pro but exasperatingly superficial indie by Chinese-American actress Crystal Kwok. Standard yarn of a woman who falls for a businessman and replaces his mistress goes through the entire filmmaking manual within 95 minutes, to rapidly diminishing returns. Pic had a slim release locally in November but won’t go beyond a few Asia-specific fests.

Photogenic newcomer Jacqueline Peng plays Alex, hired by smoothie Henry (Ray Lui) to teach English to his bimbo mainland mistress, Michelle (Vicky Chen). Les girls bond on shopping trips and Alex eventually bonds with Henry, causing Michelle to exit pronto. Then the married Henry starts repeating old habits. Initial reels are promising — Kwok can certainly put a good-looking package together — but the script never goes beyond skin-deep as it tries to grapple with male-female relationships and distaff disappointment. Music, editing and camerawork veer among all manner of styles, with frequent recourse to sexy montages or dream sequences (a recurring one refers to pic’s Chinese title, “Lost in the Forest”) to fill out the shallow script. Chen emerges with most kudos as the not-so-dumb mainlander.

The Mistress

(HONG KONG)

Production: A Wild Horse Prods. production. (International sales: Media Asia Distribution , Hong Kong.) Executive producer, Crystal Kwok. Co-producers, Lawrence Lau, Fiona Lee. Directed by Crystal Kwok (Kwok Kam-yan). Screenplay, Kwok, Susan Chan. Camera (color), Gigo Lee; editor, Cheung Ka-fai; music, Charles Valade; production designer, Chris Wong; costume designer, Eddie Mok. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 11, 2000. Original Cantonese title: Maisat samlam. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Ray Lui, Moses Chan, Vicky Chen, Jacqueline Peng, Anna Yui, Sarah Hughes, Susan Chan, Dong Yee.

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