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南京的基督 (1995)
The Christ of Nanjing

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/03/2002

Anyone who has seen the wonderful Kitchen, will remember the warm and very impressive performance given by Yasuko Tomita, the Japanese actress who played Aggie. On the strength of her acting in that movie, I decided to give Christ of Nanjing a try, and I was not disappointed.

The movie is set in China some time in the twenties or thirties. Okagawa, a cultured Japanese writer played by Tony Leung Ka-Fai travels to Nanjing, and while amusing himself in one of the local brothels, he runs into Jin-Hua, a poor and uneducated peasant girl played by Yasukosan who is visiting her cousin, one of the girls working in this establishment. Okagawa falls madly in love and decides to marry the girl. They spend some idyllic weeks together, until a death in the family forces him to return to Japan where he already has a wife and kids. Upon learning of the betrayal of her lover, Jin-Hua breaks down, and watching her slowly deteriorate emotionally and physically is heartbreaking. Eventually, Okagawa returns, only to find that he may have come too late.

I've left out many important plot elements to avoid spoiling the movie. Some of them, such as the questions of faith (Jin-Hua is Christian), are not as fully realized as they could have been, but that does not take away from the overall very strong impact the movie has. The musical score is wonderful, and the cinematography (centered around traditional images of rural China) is just breathtakingly beautiful. Every single shot is well composed and measures up with the best of the "painterly" films of a Chen Kaige or Zhang Yimou. Yet the film never becomes static. The credit to that goes to Yasuko Tomita, whose performance here is just astounding. She owns this film, moving from shy charming innocent to tender playful lover to heartbroken suffering heroine, covering a wide range of emotions without one false note or without ever falling into melodrama.

Adult situations in HK movies are normally glossed over, or treated in a comedic fashion (excluding Cat 3 exploitation films, of course). Well, this movie is the exception to the rule, the erotic component of their releationship is handled in a lovely manner, and these scenes never feel gratuitous or cheap (the movie is rated II).

This movie doesn't get mentioned much, which really surpises me, because it deserves to be seen. Unfortunately, I could only find it on VCD.

Reviewed by: hktopten
Date: 12/21/1999

Has Tony Leung Ka Fai been officially named the spokesman for pedophiles? The first half hour or so felt like The Lover, but the latter half of the movie dragged and eventually became pointless. I fast forwarded through it out of respect for Tony. Skip unless you are a die hard Tony fan.

Reviewed by: Darryl
Date: 12/21/1999

I think the film, much like Tony Au Ting Ping's body of work, is about love and its tribulations. I believe the source for this was literary, but I am not sure. It is beautifully photogrpahed, co-prodeced with Amuse Entertainment, Japan and Golden Harvest, Hong Kong. The acting is fine (the youg love interest is phenomenal) and the film mixes sensuous, erotic imagery with profound tragedy. The end is a little rushed, but I would say that this is one of the most mature HK films from the past couple of years and that because of its erotic nature might bring in viewers who know Tony Leung Kar Fei from Jean-Jacques Annaud's THE LOVERS. Go for it!.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: pablo
Date: 12/09/1999

Writer Okagawa Ryuichi, while in China, falls for innocent Jin Hua,sold into prostitution by her father for money to buy farmland. When he returns to Japan she contracts a venerial disease and becomes dilirious. The highly stylized structure of the film, used to blur the line between reality and dilurium, makes the plot a little hard to follow, but it works well. Yasuko Tomita puts in a very spirited performance. Entertaining, but not a classic.