You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Jasmine Women

A multi-generational tearjerker of the first order, "Jasmine Women" is an impressive showcase for Mainland-born thesps Zhang Ziyi and Joan Chen, in multiple roles as daughters and mothers across three generations. Helming bow of ace d.p. Hou Yong, whose credits include both Tian Zhuangzhuang's "The Blue Kite" and Zhang Yimou's "The Road Home," is unsurprisingly a visual feast, if occasionally overstated.

Younger Mo/Li ("Lili")/Hua ("Flower") - Zhang Ziyi Younger Mo's Mother/Older Mo - Joan Chen "Boss" Meng - Jiang Wen Du - Liu Ye Zou Jie - Lu Yi

A multi-generational tearjerker of the first order, “Jasmine Women” is an impressive showcase for Mainland-born thesps Zhang Ziyi and Joan Chen, in multiple roles as daughters and mothers across three generations. Helming bow of ace d.p. Hou Yong, whose credits include both Tian Zhuangzhuang’s “The Blue Kite” and Zhang Yimou’s “The Road Home,” is unsurprisingly a visual feast, if occasionally overstated. Pic (“dedicated to all mothers”) could find an appreciative market with Western arthouse fans of period exotica, especially given Zhang Ziyi’s current high international profile. Solid B.O. across Asian territories looks inevitable.

Pic is divided into three segs. The first (“Grandmother”) opens in Shanghai’s pre-WWII heyday. Starstruck innocent, Mo (Zhang, in full ingenue mode), falls for the slick patter of talent scout “Boss” Meng (Jiang Wen) about becoming a movie star. Though Meng makes good on his promise, he also gets Mo pregnant. Despite her burgeoning career, Mo refuses to have an abortion, moving back home to face recriminations from her mother (Chen) and other more dire consequences.

In the second part (“Mother”), Communist China is in full swing in the late ’50s and the still movie-obsessed Mo (now played by Chen) has to contend with the socialist zeal of her daughter, Li (Zhang). Li’s b.f., Zou Jie (Lu Yi), has troubles with Mo’s bourgeois tastes.

Final section (“Daughter”), set in 1978, introduces Hua (Zhang), the adopted daughter of Li. Hua has been raised under the watchful eye of Mo (now a grandmother, still starstruck, and still played by Chen), but has secretly married a brilliant fellow student, Du (Liu Ye). Not knowing they’re married, Mo attempts to sway Hua from further “romance” with Du.

Despite occasional ham-fisted moments, when Hou and fellow scripter Zhang Xian don’t know when enough is enough, yarn generally hits all the right marks. Most importantly, Hou as a director wisely doesn’t get in the way of his talented distaff leads.

As the three rebellious daughters, Zhang has the showier roles and more than proves (especially after “2046” and “House of Flying Daggers”) that she’s a young actress of considerable range who’s only just beginning to hit her stride. The three roles effectively retrace her career so far, from the innocent in “The Road Home” to the sometimes ferocious characters she’s limned in Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Rush Hour 2” and “Hero.”

More surprising, however, is Chen, who re-emerges here as a thesp of considerable talent. Playing each of the mother roles, Chen shows an impressive command of nuance. Supporting perfs from the male thesps, including local superstar-cum-director Jiang as the slick film producer, are also impressive.

Film looks like a picture postcard, with the scenes set in pre-WWII Shanghai particularly impressive for their art direction. Other tech credits are of a similarly high standard. Score by Su Cong and Yin Qing acknowledges the meller roots of the story without unduly stressing its excesses.

Original title, “Molihua kai,” literally means “Jasmine Flowers Bloom.” It’s also a pun on the Chinese names of the women portrayed (Mo, Li, Hua — which combined mean “Jasmine Flowers”).

Jasmine Women


Production: A Beijing Wanji Communications & Prods. Co. production, in association with Century Hero Film Investment Co., China Film Group Corp., Asian Union Film & Media, Beijing Jinyingma Movie & TV Culture Co. (International sales: China Film Import & Export Corp., Beijing.) Produced by Han Sanping, Li Xudong. Executive producer, Tian Zhuangzhuang. Directed by Hou Yong. Screenplay, Zhang Xian, Hou, based on the novel "Funu shenghuo" by Su Tong.

Crew: Camera (color), Yao Xiaofeng; editor, Zhan Haihong; music, Su Cong, Yin Qing; production designer, Min Zong Si; sound (Dolby Digital); associate producers, Li Bolun, Dong Ping, Teng Zhan. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival (Winds of Asia), Oct. 25, 2004. (Also in Shanghai Film Festival -- competing, and Hawaii Film Festival.) (Mandarin, Shanghainese dialogue) Running time: 130 MIN.

With: Younger Mo/Li ("Lili")/Hua ("Flower") - Zhang Ziyi Younger Mo's Mother/Older Mo - Joan Chen "Boss" Meng - Jiang Wen Du - Liu Ye Zou Jie - Lu Yi

More Film

  • 'The Apollo' Review: A Legendary Theater

    Tribeca Film Review: 'The Apollo'

    You should never take for granted a documentary that fills in the basics with flair and feeling. Especially when the basics consist of great big gobs of some of the most revolutionary and exhilarating popular art ever created in this country. Roger Ross Williams’ documentary “The Apollo,” which kicked off the Tribeca Film Festival on [...]

  • Playwright Mark Medoff author of "Children

    Mark Medoff, 'Children of a Lesser God' Playwright, Dies at 79

    Mark Medoff, the playwright who wrote Tony Award-winning play “Children of a Lesser God,” died Tuesday in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 79. His daughter Jessica Medoff Bunchman posted news of his death on Facebook, and the Las Cruces Sun-News attributed the cause to cancer. “Children of a Lesser God” starred John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content