C’est la vie, mon cheri (1993)

This is Hong Kong tear-jerking melodrama at its best, boasting a superb performance by Anita Yuen.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dir. Derek Yee
1993 | Hong Kong | Drama/Romance | 105 mins | 1.85:1 | Cantonese
PG (passed clean) 

Cast: Lau Ching Wan, Anita Yuen, Carina Lau, Fung Bo-Bo, Carrie Ng
Plot: A jazz musician breaks up with his girlfriend, and moves into a poor neighborhood. There, he meets a girl who shows interest in him.
Awards: Nom. for 6 Golden Horses – Best Director, Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score
Source: Film Unlimted

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate/Tearjerker
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Review #1,807

(Reviewed at Oldham Theatre as part of Asian Restored Classics programme)

Spoilers: No

This movie single-handedly revived my interest in Mandarin and Cantonese songs of the ‘80s and ‘90s that were composed primarily for films.  And just as well, as the film centers quite a fair bit on musical performances, either in recordings (we see mountain-high stacks of cassette tapes in one of the character’s homes), or through opera singing at the street level.

Efficiently directed by Derek Yee, C’est la vie, mon cheri is Hong Kong tear-jerking melodrama at its best, for it grounds us in the realities of the working-class through an ensuing romance between Kit and Min, as played by Lau Ching Wan and Anita Yuen.  (My gawd, Anita Yuen, she was so pretty and effervescent here—and it’s an understatement to say that I’ve a huge crush on Min.)

Min plays a young, bubbly woman with a zest for life who helps out with her family’s opera gigs, while her new sullen-looking, saxophone-playing neighbour, Kit, tries to get over a breakup.  Yuen’s performance is superb, while Lau gives us a quieter, introspective character. 

This balance—I guess one might call it opposites attract—ensures that the film remains compelling to see, even as it careens to a sad inevitability that you wish weren’t true.

A winner of six Hong Kong Film Awards, including Best Picture, Director and Actress, C’est la vie, mon cheri captures the wonderful feeling of falling in love, but it also reminds us that we need to cherish whom we love.  Such is life.

Grade: A-


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