One of my good friends remembered my penchant for watching period movies. She recommended a movie for me to watch. Hence, the Chinese take on Dangerous Liaisons. This movie was shown in 2012 (how could I have not come across this years ago?), starring Zhang Ziyi, Chang Dong-gun, and Cecilia Cheung.
The movie, set in 1930s China opens with a girl visiting Xie Yifan (Dong-gun), filthy-rich businessman and serial womaniser. The girl finds another woman in Yifan's bed, causing a scene. That same day, he sees a woman, whom he tries to make some lecherous advances, not knowing it was his widowed second cousin--if it weren't for his grandmother's announcement.
Another scene introduces another character--the beautiful entrepreneur and bank chairwoman Mo Jieyu (Cheung), who, in the middle of an interview and photo-shoot finds out that she was being dumped by a tycoon--who was now engaged to a sixteen year-old schoolgirl named Beibei, who she meets later in a charity party for refugees. Ironically, Mo becomes Beibei's godmother, offering to be the schoolgirl's mentor. Poor Beibei is the unwitting target of Mo's vengeful plan--she makes a wager with Yifan (who is her old friend) to take Bei's virginity. Yifan declines, as he thinks that it was too easy, and moreover, he has found another target--his quiet, virtuous ,gentle, beautiful second cousin Du Fenyu, played by Zhang Ziyi. If Yifan wins, Mo would finally sleep with Yifan. If he loses, he will sign off a valuable parcel of land to her. Yifan accepts the challenge, but finds it difficult--Fenyu being immune to his charms.
Mo, however, finds a contingency plan; aiding and abetting Beibei's attraction to her drawing teacher, a young, struggling college student named Wenzhou. Despite her efforts, the relationship was never consummated, but rather, a portrait of Bei in the nude was drawn. Beibei's mother learns of the "relationship", and Bei is forbidden to see Wenzhou again. Running out of time, Mo concocts another plan. She arranges for Beibei and her mother to visit Madam Du's estate, and for Yifan to "comfort" Beibei. His mission finally completed, Yifan refocuses on seducing Fenyu--however, he finds himself in a mess he couldn't get out of.
There are a few lessons to be learned from this movie. I've spotted them earlier on, during the movie.
1. Never cheapen yourself. Mo showed this by refusing to sleep with Yifan--and by refusing to give up her independence for any man who would not value her. For a woman of her time, I thought that Mo showed incredible power--making her a total badass.
2. People--and their hearts are not pawns. Yifan was really good at playing with people. If not Beibei, it was Fenyu. He deflowered Beibei, he played with Fenyu's heart by making her admit that she feels something for him, but he tells her that he was tired of her. All for a bet. Whew.
3. Don't play with fire--you're going to get burned, real bad. Well, Yifan did get his comeuppance--I'm not going to tell you how! Mo paid dearly for her wager as well. Everyone except Du Fenyu lost out.
I really loved the whole vibe of the movie--it felt like it was really in 1931--everything was authentic. And as for the costumes--I drooled. Really. They were so beautiful, and suited the personality of the character wearing them. Whoever was in charge of the set, and of the costumes deserves a million props. I don't care about what the Cannes reviewers said. The acting wasn't wooden either, and I practically hung to the edge of my seat while watching this. I give this movie 5 stars--totally worth a watch!