Our Dream Car

Living in the heart of New York City (yay Brooklyn!!), I don’t own a car – in fact I have never owned a car and I have never really wanted to own one. I’d rather take the money that people spend on insurance, gas, parking and repairs and spend it on DVDs – let’s get our priorities right. But watching this movie made me want to own one – I could picture myself zipping down the highway with the windows wide open (and of course a smiling Grace Chang on my right!). The film affectionately explores the thrill and excitement of buying, owning and taking care of your first car. It’s a love affair. Of course, back in the late 1950’s when this film was made (1959), cars looked so much cooler and showier than they do now – big expansive American cars that my apartment could fit snugly in and sporty little European models that make you dream of Brigitte Bardot or Anita Ekberg – an automobile wasn’t just a utility, it was a lifestyle and this film is a virtual salute to the cars from that time period.
Many of these Cathay films seem to have plots that are small enough to fit into a shoebox and yet they manage to build a warm apple pie story around them that digs right into the center of your heart. They are very simple and yet effectively draw the viewer right into the lives and homes of the characters. Think of Air Hostess in which three young women join an airline and see the world or Mambo Girl in which the protagonist discovers she was adopted and spends a day looking for her birth mother or The Greatest Civil War on Earth in which a Hong Kong based family and a family from the North comically feud about food, language and culture. These films tend to be small in scale – personable - almost slice of life stories in which the plot revolves around the characters and the relationships they have with family, co-workers and neighbors. With very subtle strokes the films create characters that are very ordinary and yet very appealing and sympathetic. This is certainly the case with this film.
A plot doesn’t get much more basic than this one – it is about a newly married couple that buys their first car and how this ends up effecting their lives. Nothing overtly dramatic takes place - just  little bit of life that could happen to any of us. Though the film initially may seem like a promo for car ownership, in the end it seems to say that what really matters are the people in your life – a car can get you from place to place but only friends and family get you through your life.
Grace Chang and her husband (Zhang Yang – the boyfriend in Her Tender Heart) of less than a year bump into an old beau of Grace’s (played by Kelly Lai Chen) who tries to sell them a new car. The newlyweds who rent a room in a home (owned by the always fun and rotund Liu Enjia) have very little extra money to afford such a luxury – but Zhang wants to show Kelly that he is doing well and so when he unexpectedly gets a small raise they decide to buy the car. Once they do this they then realize that neither has a clue how to drive and they both start taking lessons and spending their nights simply sitting in their car dreaming about someday being able to drive it. Soon though the financial pressures of making payments along with Zhang’s jealousy begin to create problems between the two of them that they have to resolve. The ending of the film is close to perfect and you just want to give them a big hug.
Many of the individual scenes play out wonderfully well – simple things again – figuring out their budget, watching their neighbor neck with her lover, both selling their prized possession ala O’Henry – that feel very natural and normal. Director Evan Yang (a.k.a. Yi Wen) made over ten films with Grace – the most famous being Mambo Girl, Air Hostess and Sun, Moon and Star – and he seems to be able to bring out absolutely pitch perfect performances from her – she is just knockdown charming in this film. Yang also gives the film a little technical pizzazz  – using split screens on one occasion, filming from overhead a few times and in one scene adding humor by using a revving engine as the background music to a tiff between husband and wife. This is a film though that would have looked so much better in color - but black and white was still the norm for Hong Kong films (though Air Hostess made in the same year became Cathay's first color film).
Grace only gets to sing two songs in this one – “Beauty and the Car” during the opening credits and “Speeding” which she sings these great lyrics to her husband.

This is only a small model
Although it’s light and new
It can’t compare to my new car
It’s so joyful going around the world

We go traveling on a sunny day
I’m so happy I can drive
We go up the mountains
And across the oceans
There are endless views to see

Be careful when the road isn’t smooth
Always watch your direction
Step steady on the gas clutch

No worries, no rush
I’m so skillful that I can drive fifty miles per hour
I still think it’s too slow

Being such a skillful driver
I can drive as fast as I like without any worries
It’s like a rocket flying in the sky

I’m so happy that I can fly
Flying over the rainbow I desire to talk to a cloud
The cloud flows in a thousand layers
It looks just like endless silver

I am so happy that I am flying
Marching in the car
I hope there is a brand new world
And I will forget all the troubles around me
Let’s have a joyful space trip

How could you not love a movie that has song lyrics like this! I am just surprised that this hasn’t been made into a rap song yet.

Of course, it sounds like Grace is a bit confused if she is in this film or Air Hostess!

My rating for this film: 7.5

Though the DVD is suppose to be region 3 - it is in fact all-region.