92 Legendary La Rose Noire
Reviewed by YTSL
This 1992 film won its leading man (Tony Leung
Kar Fai) a HKFA Best Actor award, garnered three others of its cast Best
Supporting Actress nominations (Petrina Fung Bo-Bo ended up prevailing
over Teresa Mo and Wong Wan Si), and also was in the running for Best Picture,
Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Costume & Make Up Design plus
Best Original Film Score accolades. Perhaps even more amazingly,
it also actually got positively described by the notoriously critical Paul
Fonoroff as "the best parody yet produced on classic Cantonese cinema and
one of the cleverest movies released this summer" (See p. 241 of his "At
the Hong Kong Movies").
Still, all this could not really guarantee that
this (re)viewer would be able to appreciate this lauded offering; the reason
being that 92 LEGENDARY LA ROSE NOIRE is geared towards people who are
fans of -- or, unlike yours truly, at least know quite a bit about -- 1960s
Cantonese cinema. To illustrate: Not only is the movie "full
of inside jokes and little touches reminiscent of those '60s classics"
but its story specifically "uses plot elements from the 1966 "Spy with
My Face" -- a film whose Chinese title is echoed by the newer offering's.
There also is the matter of Tony Leung Kar Fai's police detective character
having a Chinese name -- which does not get exactly translated in the English
subtitles -- of one of the top stars of the 1960s and giving "the role
a subtly comic twist, as if Lui Kee were born and raised in "Twin Peaks""
(Cf. Fonoroff, 1998:240-241).
Indeed, I found the first third of 92 LEGENDARY
LA ROSE NOIRE -- which introduces us to a struggling and frustrated female
author named Butterfly Wong (played by Maggie Siu), a man clearly enamored
by her (Tony Leung Kar Fai's character) and her quick-talking "bitchy housewife"
friend, Chen (who is played by Teresa Mo) -- to provide less than enthralling
viewing. It did not help matters that the manner in which Officer
Lui (who is given the Western name of Keith in the English subtitles) tries
to get Butterfly Wong's attention came across as laughable rather than
laughter-inducing. Ditto re how the two women came to witness a trio
of murders, and tried to avoid being more involved in the matter by falsely
implicating the Black Rose -- who they thought only existed in an old TV
series directed by the himself legendary Chor Yuen -- in the affair.
The movie perks up immensely though upon the sudden
appearance onto the scene of two eccentric -- and outraged -- disciples
of the Black Rose (These characters, in more ways than one, are wonderfully
essayed by Petrina Fung and Wong Wan Si). The prematurely senile,
often baby-doll looking Piu Hung (Petrina Fung) and her required-to-kungfu-exercise-upon-the-ringing-of-a-little-bell
"See Chea" (Wong Wan Si) are heroic fighting femmes but also strange women
who lead largely hermetically-sealed as well as off-kilter lives.
All kinds of visually and verbally humorous actions and activities ensue
after they successfully hunt down Butterfly Wong, confuse her with Wong
Fei Hung, kidnap her and make her their maid as well as prisoner in their
seemingly escape-proof and multiple booby-trapped home. Things get
even more farcical and funnier when the thoroughly unprepared Officer Lui
also meets their acquaintance, has his identity confused with someone (else)
from Piu Hung and "See Chea"'s past, gets taken captive by the two women,
and tries to somehow make things better by pretending that he wants to
marry the one of them that he truly -- and for good reasons too! -- fears.
Just when you wonder how the makers of 92 LA LEGENDARY
ROSE NOIRE are going to bring together the portions of the story that occurred
outside of Piu Hung and "See Chea"s house -- and alternate reality -- with
that with which occurs within it, they actually do at least make some of
those strands meet, connect and get somewhat satisfactorily resolved.
The way the film ends though leaves room for a sequel (which did come about
- Rose Rose I Love You - but was far less acclaimed). This could
be considered fitting for a production that features legendary figures
who have faithful followers (and successors), even if not the ability to
be truly immortal.
My rating for the film: 7.5