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May 16, 2012

Lady in Black

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Duo ming jia ren
Sun Chung - 1987
Joy Sales Films All Region DVD

Were that there was more suspense than melodrama, Lady in Black could more appropriately be described as Hitchcockian. There is enough to indicate that there was some influence at work here. The only overview of director Sun Chung is informative about his career in general. The film would indicate that Chung and the three credited screenwriters had some familiarity with Hitchcock's later films.

The opening scene of Brigitte Lin forging a check for $500,000 Hong Kong dollars brings to mind Marnie, in that the film centers on a woman who steal from her employer. In this regard, as well as with the use of other elements, Lady in Black takes elements that in a generic sense recall Hitchock. From the very beginning, the woman, May, is wracked with quilt, startled when her best friend barges into the office, thinking she's been caught in the act. The nervous guilt is with Lin when she goes to the bank to cash the check, and drops the envelope in front of a policeman who courteously picks it up, handing it back to her.

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As it turns out, the money is for May's rat bastard husband, Sheng, to pay off a gambling debt. May and Sheng go to Thailand in the hopes that Sheng's uncle can help them out. When the visit doesn't pan out as hoped for, Sheng, feeling sorry for himself, sits out the outside of a tourist boat, getting drunk, seemingly posed to commit suicide. May tries to talk Sheng out of killing himself, only to fall overboard. Whether Sheng has deliberately let go of May, to drown in the water, and cover her crime of embezzlement, is unclear. As it turns out, reports of May's death prove inaccurate.

Hitchcpck is more or less quoted during May and Sheng's frenzied final encounter where it is easy to think of both Psycho and Dial M for Murder, and even Torn Curtain. Death in several of Hitchcock's films isn't quick and easy, but sometimes a drawn out struggle between the two players, where one or both people are grabbing at any sharp instrument they can as for use as an implement of of self-defense, but in a Hitchcock film, fatal for the person on the receiving end.

Lady in Black might have been a better movie had it emphasized the kinds of elements that might be found in Hitchcock's films. Aside from the embezzling wife, there is Tony Leung Ka-Fai as the social climbing, conniving, manipulative husband. There are the feelings of guilt that plague May, and to a lesser extent, Sheng. There is also May's "death", accident or deliberate murder. One of the better scenes is of a nightmare May has, a remembrance of the events that led her to her current state, with a battered face from the downing, her dream marriage now one of horror. Nightmares, usually composed of distorted memories, are another familiar Hitchcockian element.

What is sadly missing here is any sense of the erotic. It's not like Sun Chung had not made films with any degree of eroticism. Perhaps there was the thought that there shouldn't be anything sexy about a female who is both a wife and mother. Lady in Black came out a year after Peking Opera Blues, Tsui Hark's film that made some of the best early use of Lin's allure. Between the kernels of a suspenseful story and the presence of Brigitte Lin, Lady in Black is a film of squandered opportunities.

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This entry is part of the Third Annual For the Love of Film Blogathon. Black is also the color of the ledger ink for funding the streaming of the silent classic, The White Shadow. Send your green here. More postings will be found at always fashionable Self Styled Siren.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at May 16, 2012 08:53 AM


With all the Hitchcock analysis running around, it's nice to see this article that brings in a film one has never seen. Thanks....

Posted by: Tinky at May 16, 2012 01:51 PM