×

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.

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

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

China

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

  • Black Panther Movie

    Oscars: 'Black Panther' Leads Best Picture Nominees to Near-Record Box Office Grosses

    This year’s Academy Award nominees proved the Oscars don’t need a popular film category to recognize movies with huge box office grosses. The 2019 crop of best picture hopefuls have generated an impressive $1.26 billion so far in North America alone. That bounty is led by “Black Panther,” which earned a sensational $700 million at [...]

  • oscar nominations 2019 stream online

    How to Watch This Year’s Oscar-Nominated Films

    The 2019 Oscar nominations have been announced, and if you want to catch up on the nominees, we’ve rounded up some easy ways to watch or stream the original films, documentaries, and songs competing for an award. Period comedy “The Favourite” and Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” lead the pack with 10 nominations apiece, while “Green Book” [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Makes History for Poland

    Alfonso Cuaron might’ve tied an Oscar record with four nods to his name for “Roma,” which scored 10 nominations overall. But another black-and-white film in a foreign language, Pawel Pawlikowski’s jazz-infused romantic drama “Cold War,” was honored with three Academy Award nominations Tuesday, the most in history for a primarily Polish-backed production. The film will [...]

  • BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

    U.K. Cinema Attendance in 2018 Was Highest Since 1970

    Cinema attendance in the U.K. topped 177 million in 2018, the highest number since 1970. Box office held firm at £1.3 billion ($1.7 billion) through the year as 10 movies crossed the £30 million threshold in the year. That compares with six films in 2017. After a sweltering summer in the U.K. and a strong [...]

  • ASIB Roma Black Panther

    Vote: Which Movie Should Win the Oscar for Best Picture?

    The 91st Oscar nominations were unveiled on Tuesday with “Roma” and “The Favourite” leading the way with 10 nods each. “Roma,” Alfonso Cuaron’s love-letter to his childhood nanny, is Netflix’s first-ever best picture nomination and could make history as the first foreign-language movie to ever win the top prize at the Academy Awards. More Reviews [...]

  • Göteborg TV Drama Vision Expects 60

    TV Drama Vision Set to Take Pulse of Nordic Commissioners’ Wish List

    More than 360 international delegates are expected at Göteborg’s 13th Nordic TV Drama Vision (Jan. 30-31) described by head of industry Cia Edström as a ‘boutique event’, where top Nordic and international drama professionals gather each year to gauge the state of the Nordic market and hot content. For the first time, to comply with the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content