A Moment of Romance III

Reviewed by YTSL

The 1996 entry of a trio of works that bear the same title and have Wu Chien-Lien as the lead actress -- but have her playing different characters in each of them and have had her appearing on different sides of a “hailing from the right versus wrong side of the tracks” romantic equation -- appears to be the least popular among Hong Kong film fans as well as  have come under the heaviest criticism by internet and other movie reviewers.  I thus was rather surprised to learn (via the HKMDB) that the old-fashioned as well as melodramatic feeling presentation whose Chinese title translates into English as “As If Heaven Has Love III: Flames of War Beauty” -- and was directed, not just produced, by Johnnie To -- actually outperformed its Benny Chan directed 1990 and 1993 predecessors at the local box office.

For the record: The almost overpoweringly orchestral music-filled A MOMENT OF ROMANCE III grossed about HK$1.5 million more than the generally more modest effort which saw the first pairing of Andy Lau and the then cinematic debut-making actress whose is known to Cantonese speakers as Ng Sing-Lin; and raked in some HK$5.5 million in excess of that which teamed up Wu Chien Lien with Aaron Kwok.  After viewing it, I strongly suspect that this period offering that’s set in rural as well as urban portions of China that are at war with the Japanese -- and which really does look visually sumptuous, no doubt due in large part to its cinematographer being the masterful Poon Hang Sang as well as because it does boast a couple of physically attractive stars plus places them amidst some very photogenic locales and sets -- also cost a fair bit more than the earlier AMOR works; and not only because of its main male character’s preferred modes of transportation being planes as well as a jeep and a chauffeur-driven limousine rather than motorbikes or mass transit.
A MOMENT OF ROMANCE III’s main (love) story effectively and rather inauspiciously begins on a rainy day in 1938, with a wounded Chinese Air Force Lieutenant Lau Tin Wai (who gets played by Andy Lau in dashing mode) crashing his bullet-riddled plane into a corn-field and narrowly avoiding smashing into an eighteen year old local female who had just finished praying to the gods to bring the potentially harvest-ruining heavy downpour to a halt.  What with the sun having come out soon after the military pilot’s sudden arrival into her very remote neck of the woods, Ting Siu Wo (who is portrayed by the sufficiently young-looking as well as perennially sweet-faced Wu Chien-Lien) sees the nearly as quickly convalescent Tin Wai as having had something to do with the miraculous-appearing change in the weather, and consequently undertakes to make him feel welcome and comfortable during what amounts to an enforced stay in the area for him (until he gets his plane back in fly-able condition plus manages to (re-)establish contact with some others who are actively engaged in the war effort).
Despite the patriotic Tin Wai clearly hankering to get back to fighting the good fight against the Japanese invaders of his beloved motherland, he ends up being unable to help but enjoy the latest situation he found himself in and bathe in the warmth of the sun plus the warm affection that is showered on him by Siu Wo and, to be fair, pretty much all of the other residents of Double Mountain Village.  Before too long however, with such as the return of a group of men who had temporarily ventured outside of their home territory to look for work and such, his rural idyll gets interrupted and then brought to a close.  One reason for this is that Tin Wai is recognized by them to be a scion of a very wealthy, high class family (in whose presence it is felt that people ought to stand on ceremony).  Another spanner thrown in the works -- and specifically into Tin Wai and Siu Wo’s hitherto innocently friendly but increasingly close relationship -- is that one of the recent male returnees to the community happens to be not only the son of the village headman but also the individual who the now obviously grown-up Siu Wo was designated from childhood to marry.
A series of other events soon contribute to Tin Wai being at least briefly designated as persona non grata in the previously welcoming village (and thereby complicating A MOMENT OF ROMANCE III’s otherwise pretty straightforward as well as simple plot).  Although this state of affairs actually only ended up strengthening the emotional bonds between Tin Wai and Siu Wo, this unlikely pairing -- of rich urban fly-boy and illiterate as well as poor peasant female -- are then compelled to part when he gets successfully contacted by other Chinese air force personnel and ordered to return to his squadron’s Wushan base.  Some short hours after Tin Wai’s looking to have permanently departed from her community and life though, Siu Wo ends up making tracks of her own to the far away big city that happens to be Tin Wai’s hometown.
In Wushan, Siu Wo not only successfully re-encounters Tin Wai but also meets -- in varying circumstances -- a prostitute cum apparently archetypal “air force pilot’s woman”, other members of Tin Wai’s not particularly respected -- as it turned out -- squadron (whose oft brooding captain is played by the ever hunky Alex Fong), and his strong-minded societal pillar of a widowed mother -- and receives a mixture of receptions (ranging from surprisingly positive to expectedly negative) from them.  All in all, the arguably too nice-for-her-own-good young woman appears to rather disconcertingly and discomfortingly find that there really isn’t that much time and opportunity in that city for romance or, seemingly, even genuine love of more than one’s country...Or/but does she really?  Suffice to say at this point that I wouldn’t rule out it being so that the manner in which A MOMENT OF ROMANCE III concludes might well have had a significant role in this watchable -- but not all that special, really -- effort enjoying greater commercial success than the two previous offerings with which it significantly differs in more than just temporal and geographic settings.

My rating for the film: 6.