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Kwan Brings Shanghai Glamour to Venice

Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan's Everlasting Regret brought Old Shanghai glamour to Venice on Thursday with a tale of bitterness and unrequited love, as the film festival wound down ahead of its weekend awards. 


The only Chinese film competing for Venice's top Golden Lion prize follows the life of a celebrated beauty as she slides from the glittering dance floors of exclusive 1940s ballrooms to a wistful, proletarian existence.


Pop diva Sammi Cheng, who made her movie debut with romantic comedy Feel 100%, plays Qiyao, the enthralling woman whose entry into a "Miss Shanghai" contest catapults her into the arms of a nationalist officer, until the political wind changes.


To a soundtrack of big-band swing and popular Chinese tunes, Qiyao struggles with aging, the departure of her loved ones and tormented love affairs, while trying to keep her dignity intact.


"Qiyao is a strong character, or she would not have resisted until 1981," Kwan told a news confrence.


"The idea is that unless a man is vile, a woman does not love him. Qiyao lives in regret because all the people around her disappear and she finds herself alone."


The visually lush film, based on a popular novel by Wang Anyi, is shot in the evocative interiors of Qiyao's homes and in the restaurants she frequents, while the wave of social change that sweeps China is evoked only with sounds of gunfire and songs about Mao Zedong.


"When I decided to adapt the book, what I was most interested in was the character," said Kwan. "Qiyao reflects the social changes with her behavior. Her way of perceiving her feelings is different, her relationship with money changes."


By her side throughout her roller-coaster life is her photographer friend Mr Cheng, played by Tony Leung Ka Fai, best known in Europe for his role in 1992 film L'Amant.


From Regret to Love


One of few openly gay directors in Asia, Kwan made his name abroad with Rouge in 1987. In 2001, he completed the ground-breaking Lan Yu, based on an anonymous Internet text about a businessman and a college boy who fall in love after a one-night stand in Beijing.


He is one of Hong Kong's biggest names along with Wong Kar-Wai, director of the acclaimed In the Mood for Love and 2046, close in color and texture to Kwan's offerings.


Everlasting Regret joins a range of Asian films presented at the Venice Lido, both in and out of competition. After Tsui Hark's epic Seven Swords kicked off the festival, the closing honor will go to Peter Ho-sun Chan's Perhaps Love.


Also showing on Thursday is the sepia-tinted Garpastum by young Russian director Alexei German Jr, the story of two brothers, their love for football and the spirit of St. Petersburg before the Russian Revolution.


German is the son of Alexei German, whose film about Stalin-era repression, My Friend Ivan Lapshin, was banned by the Soviet government.


The daughter of another acclaimed director, Italy's Cristina Comencini presented her picture La Bestia nel Cuore, the second of three Italian movies in competition following Roberto Faenza's I Giorni dell'Abbandono, which earlier this week met both derision and applause.



For the film, well-received at a press screening, Comencini adapted her novel about adults dealing with child abuse.


(CRI September 9, 2005)

Ang Lee's Film Premieres at Venice
Financial Secretary Celebrates the Success of HK Films in Venice
Chinese Cinema Retrospective
Seven Swords Kicks off Venice Film Festival
Venice Film Festival Favors Chinese Female Directors
Sammi Eyes Best Actress at Venices
Perhaps Love to Lower Curtains for Venice Film Festival
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