Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

August 15th, 2000 Issue #5

Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.

The following review has been excerpted from The Hong Kong Filmography. The DVD information that follows has been written specifically for Hong Kong Digital.

C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri
(1993; Film Unlimited/Newport Entertainment): 8/10

Cover art courtesy Universe.
San bat liu ching

Xin bu liao qing

New Endless Love

Cinematographers: Tam Chi-wai, Peter Ngor Chi-kwan
Art Director: Hai Chung-man
Music: Chris Babida, William Woo Wai-lap
Producer: Alexander Chan Mong-wah
Writer/Director: Derek Yee Tung-sing
Cast: Anita Yuen Wing-yee (Min), Lau Ching-wan (Kit), Carrie Ng Kar-lai (Yan-ling), Carina Lau Kar-ling (Tracy), Petrina Fung Bo-bo (Min's Mother), Paul Chun Pui (Uncle, aka "Cheung Po-tsai"), Sylvia Chang Ai-chia (Min's Doctor), Lau Yee-tat (Tats), Joe Junior (Cover Singer), Jacob Cheung Chi-leung (Fortune Teller), Jamie Luk Kim-ming (Blacky), Herman Yau Lai-to (Man In Club)
VHS/LD: Tai Seng
Import LD/VCD/DVD: Universe. 98 minutes
Also known as Endless Love (Singapore Title)

Lau Ching-Wan and Anita Yuen Wing-Yee. Image courtesy Universe.

Struggling songwriter Kit has seen better days, especially now that his relationship with star singer Tracy has fallen apart. Broke, he moves into a rundown tenement above Min, an incredibly perky young girl who is determined to get Kit out of his shell and won't take no for an answer. Min's family are street singers and, as Kit soon surmises, the girl has great potential to move beyond this modest existence and into the recording industry. Transformed by his exposure to Min, Kit makes plans with her to start a career, but the unimaginable happens: After over ten years of perfect health, the bone cancer Min experienced as a child has returned. The willpower and zest for living which has helped keep Min alive for this long quickly extinguishes, and it is up to Kit to help her try and regain it.

The sleeper hit of 1993, C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri was produced on a small budget with little-known leads but won over HK moviegoers to a phenomenal degree and walked away with the Best Picture, Best Actress (Anita Yuen), Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Paul Chun), and Best Supporting Actress (Petrina Fung) prizes at The HK Film Awards. Any synopsis makes the movie sound like the most hackneyed tearjerker in memory, and the final third does resort to some familiar devices. However, it does not really matter because by that point the audience is fully caught up in the lives of these characters and are ready to stay with the film, no matter what direction the plot takes. Derek Yee's script and direction sidestep most of the pitfalls intrinsic to this sort of material, and there is a wonderfully varied selection of music, covering everything from traditional opera to "In the Mood."

Carrie Ng Ka-Lai. Image courtesy Universe.

A key factor in the movie's popularity can be traced to the fact that it concentrates on common, everyday citizens, rather than the rich and glamorous icons who populate many HK features, thus heightening viewer identification. Also, a potent thread of nostalgia envelopes everything from the locations to the old-fashioned storyline, adding to that accessibility. The entire cast gives sensitive, committed performances but Anita Yuen is simply magical; C'est La Vie's success made her the busiest actress in HK for several years afterwards. In fact, she and Lau Ching-wan were re-teamed for a number of subsequent features, but none of those pairings match the wholly natural and remarkable chemistry they have here.

DVD Specs:

Universe #5008 (Remastered Version)
Dolby Digital mono (2.0)
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
Optional subtitles in English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)
8 chapters illustrated in the menu with full motion clips
Letterboxed (1.67:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
Category I
98 minutes

DVD menu courtesy Universe.

Universe first issued C'EST LA VIE, MON CHERI on DVD in a no-frills replication of their laserdisc and VCD transfer. They have now re-issued the movie (with the same catalog number) in a new version sporting optional subtitles. The source print has some mild wear and the image is a tad dull but, given the film's short production schedule and small budget, this is a good presentation. The sound is the disc's weakest component: the Cantonese version (sync sound) is marred by surface noise during quieter moments, while the Mandarin track is scratchy and goes way out of sync during the sequence where Anita Yuen is singing with Joe Junior at the recording studio. There is no trailer but one is included for I HAVE A DATE WITH SPRING, as is a bio/filmography for Lau Ching-wan.

As with many HK DVDs, the sparse selection of chapters are not spaced out properly, resulting in no chapter options for the final 26 minutes of the movie.

Anita Yuen with Joe Junior. Image courtesy Universe.

Copyright © John Charles 2000. All Rights Reserved.

Hong Kong Digital is presented in association with Hong Kong Entertainment News In Review