Coincidentally, I had been watching the Jacques
Demy film The Young Girls of Rochefort just recently and Cabaret Tears
brought it back to mind. Young Girls is a very joyous look at young love
among a group of itinerant performers who travel from small town to small
town with a song always on their lips. At one point in Cabaret Tears
a tune written by the musical composer of Young Girls, Michel Legrande,
ironically plays as the performing troupe in Cabaret Tears looks back at
the small town they are leaving.
This Cinema City production though is far removed
from the romantic yearning of Jacque Demy, it is in fact a surprisingly
bleak, realistic and unromantic look at a female troupe of travelling entertainers.
At times it almost has a John Cassavettes dark vérité feel
to it. Stuffed into the back of trucks like refuse, they travel from small
town to small town across Taiwan stopping for a few days to play at seedy
run down venues sleeping on whatever floor space is available. Like old
time vaudevillians, their shows consist of dance routines, a bit of comedy
that leads up to the big event of the evening - a strip show. The gawking
audience is all men looking for a minor thrill in their humdrum lives.
There is no joy in this troupe just a group
of women hoping to make some money before their looks have vanished. Perhaps
at one time these women had dreams of being in show business, dreams of
making it to the top but now they just grind out one day after another.
Days are filled with internal acrimony and gossip, the nights with the
show and after the show perhaps they have to perform a favor for the
Kung fu veteran Ku Feng runs the troupe and among
the women is Sylvia Chang. Sylvias older sister has brought her into the
business and is pushing her into bigger and better roles the solo dancer
but as Sylvia looks around her at the crumbling sad lives of the women,
all she wants to do is get out. But her sibling loyalty makes this a difficult
choice to make.
Though a part of you has to respect such an
unyieldingly realistic film no star is born here sort of material the
continuously downbeat story and the constant loud tirades of the older
sister make it heavy and eventually unpleasant going. As a side note
here is yet another famous and highly respected Hong Kong actress (Sylvia)
involved in a mud-wrestling match the other being of course Maggie Cheung
in Paper Marriage. Sylvia a terrific singer with all her other talents
also performs two songs.
My rating for this film: 4.0