How Deep is Your Love
Reviewed by YTSL
For better or worse, this 1994 offering is
the kind of Hong Kong movie that would not be made in Hollywood or find
too receptive an audience outside of its home region. While those
with or used to Hong Kong sensibilities will find this pop music laden
piece to generally be a relatively innocuous and even sweet offering, I
feel obliged to point out that it contains a lot of material that might
offend lots of different, less prepared and thin-skinned people.
More specifically: I can imagine homophobic
individuals being upset by HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE having so many -- and
frequently nice or at least harmless -- homosexual characters; even while
gay activists might get equally upset by this being one of those romantic
works which features what will probably be seen as a conversion to heterosexuality
(Alternatively though, one could argue that it all makes for an implicit
and prevailing assumption that quite a few people actually have bisexual
tendencies; hence their going for the same or opposite sex at different
times in their lives). Then there's the depiction of non-Chinese
folk here, along with someone's Cantonese-language nickname of Black Ghost
getting translated by the film's English subtitlers as Negro (At the risk
of sounding like an apologist, I will point out that the character in question
IS Chinese AND not portrayed as bad. Instead, he probably owes his
nickname to being like the popular actor, Lau Ching Wan, in having a darker
shade of skin than many other Chinese persons).
In all honesty, I sincerely doubt that anyone
involved with this production -- whose story centers on a young woman named
Ken (played by the beguiling Charlie Yeung. N.B. For those who are
unfamiliar with this prematurely retired talent, Charlie is very much a
"she") returning to Hong Kong after nine years away upon the death of her
brother to settle his affairs and belatedly learn more about him (and his
friends) -- were going out to get anyone's goat. Actually, for that
matter, I don't think that the makers of a movie whose English title is
taken from the Bee Gees song that gets ample playing time here were aiming
to make any particularly deep points and serious statements.
Nevertheless, as the notoriously negative Paul
Fonoroff actually positively pointed out in his "At the Hong Kong Movies"
book: "[D]irector Andy Chin seems to cut through some of the stereotypes
and prejudices" found elsewhere; "Carbon Cheung's script allows for a cross
section of women, of different races, sexual persuasions, and personalities,
that is refreshing in the often humdrum world of standardized characters";
and the thorn among the roses, Max Mok, successfully invested his character,
Joe, "with nuance and a natural quality that makes him the first mainstream
Cantonese movie gay romantic lead to not be a caricature" (1998:425-426).
Indeed, what we essentially have in HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE is a pleasantly
idealistic depiction of a diverse group of -- imperfect yet not at all
charmless -- youth who live in communal housing in low-cost Mirador Mansions
(Chungking Mansions's less-famous neighbor) and the people they regularly
interact with on a social and business level.
All in all, this is a low-key, leisurely-paced
effort which has the good fortune to star two winning actresses (Charlie
Yeung in her first year in the movie business; and Wu Chien-Lien in a supporting
role as a Taiwanese singer which hardly stretched her since she does hail
from Taiwan and has a music as well as film career) along with an actor
who I am surprised has never graduated to the Hong Kong movie A list (Max
Mok did appear though in "Once Upon a Time in China" II and III, and --
in the same year as this film -- romanced the surely at least one decade
older Brigitte Lin in "Fire Dragon"). As such, while HOW DEEP IS
YOUR LOVE is hardly a "must see" work, neither does it really deserve to
be a "must avoid".
My rating for the film: 6.5.