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November 30, 2005

Between Calm and Passion

Calmi Cuori Appasionati
Reisei to Jonetsu no Aida
Isamu Nakae - 2001
Marvel Entertainment Region 3 DVD

I'm one of those people who questioned the casting decisions behind Memoirs of a Geisha. In a piece dated November 29th, Dave Kehr points that Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi both had to learn their lines phonetically. I know it's too late now, but in case anyone is looking, Kelly Chen speaks fluent English and Japanese. In Calmi Cuori Appasionati, she also speaks Italian. Ms. Chen is, at least in my estimation, at least as attractive as Hollywood's biggest female star.

The film at hand is a romantic drama, somewhat reminiscent of past films where the love affair spans continents. One of the plot points, with the couple planning to meet at a landmark in Florence, Italy, harkens back to Leo McCarey's lovers planning to meet at the Empire State Building. In this case Chen and Yutaka Takenouchi meet and break up as college students in Japan, only to cross paths in Florence and Milan. Unlike their Anglo-American counterparts who frequently seem to feel that romantic love needs to be leavened with comedy, everyone here is unashamed to play it straight. The narrative is mostly concerned with the emotional baggage that keeps people apart, making the ending not quite so inevitable. This is the kind of film that could have easily gotten quite sappy, but the characters are intelligent, Florence and Milan look nice, and the filmmakers keep the proceedings from being totally manipulative.

Calmi Cuori Appasionati is to be sure, an imperfect, but very watchable film. What it achieves is what contemporary Hollywood usually fails to do, which is to make a love story that cares about the intelligence of the characters and the audience.

Posted by peter at November 30, 2005 05:49 PM