The Wedding Days (1997)
Directed by: James Yuen
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It is indeed wedding days or rather wedding dreams for Rachel (Anita Yuen). Her pilot boyfriend Sam (Michael Wong) of 3 years wants to take his time to commit to marriage but deciding against tradition is still on the horizon. When feeling cheated then, Rachel instead decides to make Sam come on board by evoking his sympathies. Telling him her mom has cancer seals the deal therefore. Employing the services of friend Janet (Charlie Yeong), the boss of a local bridal shop, she has her own troubles to even find time to spend with her married boyfriend. Her in-house photographer Wei (Jordan Chan) becomes a support but a new, flashy photographer (Alex To) might spoil Wei's plans to one day woo Rachel...
Writing the classic (A Moment Of Romance), the light (The Days Of Being Dumb) and the felt (Always On My Mind), although inevitably everyone seems to get a chance to direct in Hong Kong cinema, veteran writer James Yuen began his trek down that path with the 1997's The Wedding Days. Produced by UFO, having already contributed to their output and staying within a secure family of cast & crew seems like a safe recipe for Yuen's debut feature. Having studied their formula, technique and players, he channels decent UFO atmosphere in a frame actually up for post-viewing debate. That debate will probably be more heated than the flick but Yuen provides a warm-looking, competent experience despite.
Marriage is the essence of love characters argue but Yuen and Aubrey Lam's (director of Twelve Nights) script has a cast of characters arguing in their own way what makes true happiness means for them individually. Partners unite in the strife towards the so called bliss but here's where the separation happens. There can be a forceful nature by those wishing everything to be perfect and therefore the transformation of their men into puppets fitting their production takes place. There's also the unification out of duty and the social positives that will come with it. So relying on romance isn't exactly a choice you're free to make. Director Yuen cycles through these notions via random characters but his concern is mainly two women's struggle to find a direction towards marriage they would actually like to chose themselves. Anita Yuen's Rachel's decision-making grows out of frustration because she can't get Michael Wong's Sam to commit and while he's being quite the ignorant prick about it (he even gives her a fake ring that in his words "doesn't mean anything"), Rachel at the steering wheel from this point manipulates to achieve so called perfection. Where have the feelings, the simplicity and the courage to make your own choices TOGETHER gone? Instincts have never been more important and thankfully less is about them adhering to what social pro's they will achieve. Going catholic at a very late stage becomes an ultimate representation of the irrationality on Rachel's behalf and when pointed out by Sam that the union is between people and not involving God, you got yourself a structure of a movie that means DECISIONS! And don't get them started on the importance of following the Lunar Calendar!
James doesn't surprise structurally but involves to a decent degree when throwing out these questions amongst characters and audiences. As a contrast to Rachel, you've got Charlie Yeong's Janet who ironically finds it difficult to go on the marriage path despite heading a bridal shop. Literally sleeping in her work at a certain point, Janet has followed instincts that have made her become categorized as a mistress but even as one, she's terminally lonely. There's even strong hints at a suicide attempt and her awakening is equally important for the film. The one concerning if she will adhere to romance in the simplest ways (no ceremony of grandeur or banquet), make an off-beat choice in her man or continue ignoring soul-searching.
Channeling it through leads Anita Yuen, Charlie Yeong and most importantly Jordan Chan, James Yuen creates the material in certainly close to a standard manner but infusing it with a true belief that he wants to speak even of basic themes, just like characters may search for basic love. The various cinematographers on the project makes sure that proceedings glow (no surprise Jingle Ma had a hand in the project then) and Yuen pushes for a character-based story where camera doesn't make the proceedings static but retain the correct story-focus. You can allow yourself to have a crane shot or two therefore.
Charlie Yeong especially is in tune with the reality the character represents and communicates in suitable low-key fashion the hurt inside. Much aided by James's direction that doesn't push to find out what the punishment is. Anita Yuen is consciously designed as whiny, completely shattered and easily impressionable, making the audience think hard about accepting this performance or not. It's definitely suitable but because she is louder, you'll have to examine her a bit harder to find acceptance. You will and Anita knows her stuff. Brightest star would have to be Jordan Chan in a trademark off-beat act as Wei, the charming photographer not quite grown up or rational either. They're stars in James Yuen's frame and The Wedding Days opens up his new career at the time not stylistically one bit but the opportunities for quite a talented writer to make a mark telling stories presented themselves. He has infused movies with partial gem-content a bit better later (Clean My Name, Mr Coroner! and Crazy N' The City, both with Francis Ng) but it wouldn't be surprising if Yuen's focus would remain the same today, 10 years post-debut feature. That's ok and a breakout is welcome as well. Just don't drop below this quality and you will sprinkle pleasant charm over Hong Kong cinema every now and again.
Mei Ah presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.69:1 approximately. Free of wear and sporting fairly attractive colours, the transfer exhibits a softness that seems to correspond to the theory that it's sourced from laserdisc. Perfectly watchable however.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track (featuring a sizeable amount of English thanks to Michael Wong) sounds clear and has no obvious detractions. The Mandarin option plays out in the back speakers! A Mei Ah treat evident on more than one early dvd of theirs.
The imbedded Chinese/English subtitles has plentiful poor grammar and spelling but rarely fails to come through with its intentions despite. Only one scene exhibits the white on white-syndrome where they become difficult to read. There are no extras.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson