He's a Woman, She's a Man (1994)

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 06/23/2007

A popular gender-bending romance with light comedy and agnostic sexuality "He's a Woman, She's a Man" oddly enough treats its subject matter with kid gloves, especially given the industry it was produced in. Anita Yuen, who received further accolades for her role as a tomboy passing herself off as a man, almost gets away with the whole charade, but every time the camera frames her in a close-up -- the jig is up, so to speak. For a film with eight writers (including star Leslie Cheung) "He's a Woman, She's a Man" is fairly grounded but when the final chapter takes a turn for the serious what preceded it feels like sopping wet kitsch. You are left with the impression the film acted as a form of primal therapy to Cheung, a bisexual, who the media often mischaracterized as a homosexual, as he is seen yelling numerous times "I am not gay!"

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 03/11/2006

“He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” is a wonderful show biz romantic comedy. It is well written, perfectly paced and has three winning performances. The music is quite good and makes sense where it is placed, since the movie illustrates the daily lives of singers and songwriters. Carina Lau as Rose was a casting coup-the perfect actress for this role. Lau is extremely attractive—her deep-set yet large eyes seem made for giving come-hither looks. Rose make it clear that she wants and needs someone to take care of her—in her first speech, given at yet another awards ceremony she thanks Sam Koo, her producer and sometime lover, for creating her. In the beginning of the movie Rose exists only as a reflection of Sam and of her millions of fans—she doesn’t have a life beyond that. Lau stays balanced on the knife edge of Rose’s neediness on one hand and her undeniable, white-hot talent on the other, showing both the strong, talented woman on the outside and the desperate little girl on the inside.

Leslie Cheung as Sam Koo was excellent but I had a difficult time separating the actor from the role—listening to Sam tell Wing about the realities of celebrity life, how some things can’t be discussed and must be treated as if they didn’t exist, especially that Wing might be gay resonated with the dilemma that Leslie Cheung apparently never resolved and which must have been at least part of the reason for his suicide. Cheung was able to tap the ambivalence and anxiety caused by having a very public life with an aspect that had to be kept hidden and channel them into this character. Sam was charismatic and accomplished—he was a good musician and an adept producer and businessman. He was also tormented by his undeniable feelings for Wing.

Anita Yeun was perfect as the star-struck young woman watching Rose win yet another award on her snowy TV set and she was even better as the young man who became part of the very odd Sam/Rose household. The first time Wing saw Rose, Wing was literally speechless in awe. Later Wing became a confidant, drinking buddy and (almost) seduced lover for Rose and finally she was a self-assured and secure individual with her own personality and achievements. Yeun rendered this constant transformation smoothly—not that the journey upon which Wing embarked was smooth but Yeun inhabited the role so well that the working actress disappeared.

The two women were the characters that changed, Rose looking confidently forward to a future that she would create herself and Wing becoming a woman again. Sam didn’t change—in the beginning of the film he wanted to imitate Paul Simon and go to Africa to absorb music and culture there and at the end he had the tickets to Africa in his hand.

There are plenty of opportunities for labored jokes and crass humor in a story involving gender-switching and the Peter Chan avoided all of them. This might have been partially due to the brilliant character Auntie, flamboyantly played by Eric Tsang. Auntie was gay and not only didn’t hide it but made sure everyone in the vicinity knew it. He was the safety valve, one of the devices to keep things from getting too fraught with emotion, the one person who accepted and enjoyed his sexuality.

“He’s the Woman, She’s the Man” has eight writers credited, including Leslie Cheung and Peter Chan. That eight people were able to produce such well realized characters with credible but funny situations for them is astonishing. Some of the key scenes hinged on small but very telling actions. For example Rose brought Wing back to her apartment—and bedroom—and told Wing to help her with the zipper of her nightdress. Doing the opposite of what she (and the audience) expected, Wing pulled the zipper down, and when she told him that he was going a bit too fast, he pulled it back up again, much to her consternation. Later in the same scene Rose and Wing are seated on the foot of Rose’s bed. They cross the bed in very small increments as Rose snuggles against Wing and Wing moves just barely out of the way. This and the chase across the bed immediately following were funny and poignant because the actors sold this scene so well, that they had created such strong characters that the audience identified with and that the writers had given them a good scene to play.

There were other wonderful touches, such as the little girl, Wing’s friend and business partner in hawking celebrity memorabilia—she was a very sharp businesswoman who knew the value of every picture she had and that Leon Lai in a red jacket with a wet head was worth more than him in a blue jacket with a dry head. Another was Wing’s roommate who coached her on how to walk and scratch like a man and who came up with the delightful device of using taped glow sticks to complete the illusion of male plumbing.

This is a funny, touching and most affecting movie and one that I recommend.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 08/16/2003
Summary: Am i the only one that didn't like thsi movie??

I actually liked the sequel to this movie which puts me in a lonely category!!

I just didn't engage with the characters that much. It felt like Anita Yuen's character seemed to be in a reminsing state and CArina LAu has some type of personality disorder. LEslie Cheungs character was the only thing keeping me barely interested

I feel there is nothing special to this drama, and maybe the hype that it was so good gave me high expectations but i doubt it effected my judgement


Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: Stardust
Date: 07/15/2002
Summary: Perfect HK Classic

It's very rare for the HK movie industry to come up with something flawless nowadays. In fact, there is only one HK movie to date that I would be willing to say is perfect, and this is the one.

Perfect and original. The two words I would use to describe this movie. It's an all time favorite of mine: the only HK classic on my list of classics.

In the 1990's, alot of movies were basically "crap". Then this movie came along and told viewers that there is still an ounce of creativity and talent left in the business. The storyline is original. Instead of the common ganster movies or pathetic slapstick comedies, we get a fresh change on the world of the HK entertainment industry and gender confusion.

The focus is mainly on Anita Yuen's character. Her journey from a nobody to a somebody gives viewers different perspectives about showbiz: how obsessive can fans get, how important fluke is, how showbiz politics can make or break you, etc. Leslie Cheung and Carina Lau give great performances as celebrities who are veterans to the business and nothing excites them anymore, which enhances Anita's innocent facinations with everything as a newcomer, and in turn, their facination with her.

There's plenty of chemistry and spark among the characters, and the jokes will gaurantee some laughs. Aside from proving to viewers that something good can still come out of HK films, it proved another thing: movies don't need to be tragic and confusing in order to win awards or be artistic; this movie was easy to understand, funny, and yet still very tasteful, creative, and artistic.

Rating 10/10

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: jfierro
Date: 12/21/1999

Everyday person Wing (Anita Yuen) idolizes a superstar couple - popularsinger Rose and her brilliant manager Sam - so much, that she poses as a man in order to meet them. But as can happen in the movies, she gets swept up into their lives and soon learns all is not as it appears from afar. Very entertaining with great performances by Anita Yuen and Leslie Cheung.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

A typical everyday HK music fan Wing (Anita Yuen) idolizes the beautiful female singer Rose (Carina Lau) and her producer Sam (Leslie Cheung) as the fairy tale couple. By chance she posed as an amateur male singer and moves in with "his" new producer Sam. The no-nonsense Wing develops a great friendship with Sam, but screws up Sam's love life with Rose. Very original and entertaining plot with *excellent* music by Leslie Cheung et al. Anita Yuen is cute even as a man (hmmm). Eight nominations in the 14th HK Films Awards.


[Reviewed by Brandon S. Ou]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

HE'S A WOMAN, SHE'S A MAN is the third UFO production that I have seen so far and might be my favourite one yet. The plot, which manage to be humorous and serious at the same time, succeed at being touching without falling into the usual HK melodrama. The acting is top notch, although Eric Tsang's performance, who was cast as a very effeminate producer, is too caricatural. Popular HK singer Jordan Chan does, once again, a fine job as Anita Yuen's best friend. But don't expect too much of Law Kar-ying's cameo if you don't want to be disappointed. Worth to be seen!

[Reviewed by Martin Sauvageau]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

What's a guy/girl to do? Pert, boyfriendless Lam Lee Wing (Anita Yuen, who won an HK best actress award for this) is a big fan of HK pop-idols Rose (Carina Lau), who sings, and her lover Sam Koo (Leslie Cheung), who writes the songs. Keen on showing that pop-stars are like anybody else, Koo sends out a cattle call to make a star out of "the average guy"; Lam, who's light in the breast department, tries out as a guy and wins the contest! She moves into the couple's evenly split apartment, and it's not long before Rose falls in love with her; and no sooner does that get straightened out then Koo falls for her, too (all the while wondering whether he's become gay or not). The situation proves to be a little preposterous, but no more so than the Elizabethan role-reversal comedies of yore. A funny script with first-rate acting by Yuen. Opens with the trail-blazing use of the cockroach-cam.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 8