Chinese Box/B,B
Trimark/1997/99/WS 1.85

      A film that exists on many levels, Chinese Box is a film that exists on many levels. It's a multiple love story set in Hong Kong at a fascinating point in the former British colony’s history. In attempting to understand the profound influences of the Chinese takeover from Britain on the small Asian Island commercial center, director Wayne Wang explores the streets, the rhythms and the people of the city with the hunger of a loaded video camera. It's well worth seeing.
     Jeremy Irons plays John, a veteran reporter covering the Hong Kong scene. Irons discovers that he is suffering from some form of cancer and begins counting his days as the countdown for the Chinese takeover of the Crown colony is in full swing. He takes tot he streets with a digital video camera, looking through a fresh lens at Hong Kong. John must work out his relationship with the beautiful Chinese woman, Vivien, come to grips with his mistakes and move along the road of reality. Along the way, he meets Jean, a disfigured street woman,  who stands in for one side of the Chine/Britain relationship. The friendship between John and his photographer Jim adds some humor to a mostly heavy picture. as Jim strums on the guitar, hangs out with John during his crisis, providing a fresh prospective.
      Chinese Box may not be a stretch for Jeremy Irons, but it’s the best and most subtle I remember him in years. The complexity of character is very internal. Gong Li is passively beautiful. I wished she had more to do, while Maggie Cheung is splendid She plays Jean with absolutely no fear. Ruben Blades adds a entertaining presence as Jim.
     Wang’s peripatetic camera captures a veritable feast of colors on the Hong Kong streets. Attacking the senses in naturalistic way, one can almost smell the aromas that help define the back alleys of the exotic Island State. Chinese Box is a fascinating slice of cultural pie baked by an enthusiastic chef.

Irons can't resist Gong Li. Who can? ©Trimark

    The combination of video and film can add up to rough going for a DVD transfer. Chinese Box contains no ugly artifact surprises. Clean images with good detail reveal the interesting point of view of director Wayne Wang. The colors of the market come to life and the delicate interiors retain for warm style. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround sound is not overly aggressive. It still manages to capture the exotic nature of the streets with enveloping detail. The music is and dialogue are clean and clear.



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