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Media Asia/1987/93m/WS 1.66

     Director Stanley Kwan weaves an elegant Chinese ghost story with interwoven strands from 1934 and 1987 Hong Kong. Kwan is a sensual filmmaker, visually caressing his characters into graceful movement in Rouge.
    Fleur is a stunner working at a Hong Kong brothel in 1934. You have to plunk down $HK200 to trace the lines of her calf or perhaps 300 to stroke an ear lobe. Chen-Pang is a prosperous merchant’s son who becomes infatuated with her. Fleur plays on his desires and he woos her like a virgin. It’s only a matter of time and pursuit before they fall passionately in love. This is not the marriage match Chen-Pang’s middle class parents had in mind; concubine yes, wife no. When they refuse to accept the relationship, Fleur influences Chen-Pang to become an actor in the Peking Opera and they set up house keeping together. Between puffs on the opium pipe their union appears as fragile as the smoke rising from the numbing fumes.
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Chen-Pang courts FleurİMedia Asia

     More than fifty years later they young and beautiful Fleur shows up at a newspaper office to place an advertisement in search of Chen-Pang. She pursues the young man who works at the newspaper office until he agrees to help her. He and his girlfriend begin to hunt for a lead to the whereabouts of Fleur’s long-lost lover.
     One of the great strengths of Rouge is the lack of special effect embellishment. Every time you think some screen trick will propel the story, Kwan chooses a quick camera cut and a return to an empty street or doorway. The restraint is highly effective in emphasizing the love story. And Rouge is primarily a tale forged in passion. Kwan’s camera is elegantly direct. His characters illuminate this beautiful romance. Anita Mui plays Fleur with great balance. She walks the jagged pathway of her fate with an innocent confidence. Leslie Cheung is effective as a charming if decadent Chen-Pang.
    This is one of the better Hong Kong DVD releases. Presented widescreen 1.66, the DVD is consistently sharp. Colors remain vital in various lighting circumstances. The removable English subtitles are reasonably coordinated with the dialogue and appear over the picture. I have yet to view a Hong Kong import that had terrific Dolby Digital 5:1 surround. The music sounds pretty good in Rouge, but it’s quite bright. Surround information is limited.
     If you enjoy Rouge, check out another Stanley Kwan title, Center Stage, starring the incandescent Maggie Cheung as real-life actress Ruan Ling Yu. It’s also available as a Hong Kong import from Media Asia.