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Film Review: Rouge 胭脂扣 (1987) - Hong Kong [HKIFF45]

Andrew Chan Anita Mui HKIFF Leslie Cheung Rouge Stanley Kwan

Film Review: Rouge 胭脂扣 (1987) - Hong Kong [HKIFF45]

Reviewed as part of 45th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2021 by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)

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Remastered in 4K, “Rouge” gets a world premiere re-release at the 45th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2021 as part of Stanley Kwan’s filmmaker in focus. Starring two of Hong Kong most beloved superstars and late icons, Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui (in one of her greatest performances), it is both fitting and emotional as we witness the duo presence simply dominates the silver screen. Based on the writings of Lilian Lee (whose writings include the now revived classic - “Farewell My Concubine” and “Green Snake”), Kwan adapts the story on the big screen in both a simple yet provoking manner as we witness the contrast between 1930s society in Hong Kong and its direct workmanlike 1980s.


Many things have changed, including the gender roles in question that Kwan have so often reflected in many of his beautiful films. The concept of romance also gone from being willing to sacrifice for love to being part and parcel of life itself. Alex Man and Emily Chu as modern day couple provides the excellent contrast to Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui’s characters. Mui in particular is outstanding as Fleur and manages to provide an depth look into a role that is tailor made for her. There were so many different appearances and looks that made the character a truly memorable yet tragic one to endure. Cheung gives the his character both the weak minded side as well as the persistent in love over heels to be with Mui despite his rich family interference.


All in all, “Rouge” is a simple tragic love story disguised within a time-warp ghost modern day tale that is simply enhanced by the direction of Kwan and its superstars. It’s almost like an opium lover’s dream the audience end up sitting through. The film ages well as the nostalgia factor adds to the equation, but at its core, the best memories of the much missed duo are gracefully alighted on the screen. Of course, Leslie Cheung would go on to make the acclaimed “Farewell My Concubine”. For, Mui, this is really her film and she made it her own for the ages.

I rated it 8/10




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