July Rhapsody (2002)

Reviewed by: xiaoka
Date: 01/19/2004
Summary: great drama

I saw this movie about a week before Anita Mui passed away. Here's a review I wrote up for my blog:

I was wondering why is this movie called "July Rhapsody" ? It doesn't necessarily seem to occur in July (at least not so its mentioned) and not much rhapsody going on too. But stars two terrific acting talents Jacky Cheung and Anita Mui. The name in chinese is 'Nan ren si shi' (man 40). The trailer has a voice over mentioning that its about a high school teacher who's turning 40 and having a relationship with one of his 17 year old student - at least thats what they want you to believe... but as with so many trailers, this is quite misleading.

In fact its much more than that. Its about things like old classmates, love, temptation, 'statutory love', etc.... actually the relationship between Jacky and the student (played by Karena Lam who won a mess of awards for the role) is only 1 facet of the movie, and by no means the most important one. Anita Mui's subplot is actually much more interesting...

I'd have to say one of the better HK dramas I've seen in a while, steers away from the sappy romantic themes present in a lot of HK movies, this is definitely a drama, its very /subtle/ (aka slow and methodical without any kind of action or conflict). But if you know what you're getting into its pretty interesting. [Just don't be misled by the trailer that this is some sort of Lolita romance!]

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: skllee
Date: 04/24/2003
Summary: Real HK cinema

July Rhapsody is one of those films which continues to resonate through you long after you watch it.
Jacky Cheung and Anita Mui put on brave performances as a couple who have lost interest in each other but who find their passions re-ignited by past memories - his by a flirtatious student and hers by a dying friend.
Their performances are so restrained and stripped-down (hardly any make-up, Jacky really shows his age!), but I really take my hat off to Karena Lam. A stunning debut - she plays the young student not simply as innocent or coquette-ish, but also very assured and precocious. There are many good moments in the film - but I especially love the moment Karena mocks Jacky's concern and seriousness by trying to aim sweets into his top pocket.
The film really shows Ann Hui's range - always able to grapple with contemporary issues, while still being shot through her vision of a Hong Kong always striving forward, but confused and perplexed about its past. She manages to tell stories without being overly expositional - always playing with narrative voices and perspectives. A true exponent of Hong Kong cinema.

Reviewed by: phil28
Date: 01/24/2003
Summary: July Rhapsody (2002)

Ann Hui has released another good film. The acting is great. Jacky Cheung's great performance since his last major performance in 1994's "Private Eye Blues". The acting isn't expressionless, nor overdone (as he have done in some films). Anita Mui and Karena Lam are great as the leading and supporting actresses. Lam has won a few film awards for her portrayal as the high school girl who had a relationship with her teacher. This film maybe boring for some, but it's fine to me. What I like about this film is how real it is to everyday life. I think that maybe the main appeal to the film. Rating: ****

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 12/26/2002

Critically acclaimed Ann Hui drama about a middle-aged Chinese Literature teacher (Jackie Cheung) stuck in a lifeless marriage (his wife played by Anita Mui Yim-Fong) while having an affair with a teenage student of his (newcomer Kareena Lam).

While I really enjoyed Ann Hui's previous effort (the beautifully filmed genre movie Visible Secret), this latest work (which I believe didn't really hit theatres until 2002, but was nevertheless nominated for 2001 HK Film Awards) is a much more restrained and dare I say boring effort that has very little of relevance to say. It's all meant to be meaningful and deep, signified by the fact that characters quote poetry a lot, but if you remove the layers of high-brow pretentiousness, you're left with nothing but middle-aged characters drifting through banal moments of crisis without ever reaching narrative or emotional intensity: Not much is at stake, not much of relevance is said, and what little there is is presented in an unobtrusive, unengaging and not very interesting manner.

If it weren't for the presence of Kareena Lam, whose depiction of a somewhat precocious, strong-willed young woman in love with her teacher (for reasons never quite explained), the movie would have totally put me to sleep. If you admired her in Tiramisu or Inner Senses and want to see more, then pick this one up cheap on vcd, otherwise stay away.

Reviewed by: LisaM
Date: 07/21/2002
Summary: Quietly devastating, utterly compelling

Ann Hui swings back from the frantic supernatural thriller of VISIBLE SECRET to the more grounded but still visually-lush drama of JULY RHAPSODY. Jacky Cheung makes a welcome return to acting as a middle-aged school teacher who becomes the target of a teenaged student's seduction; Anita Mui is astonishing as the wife who has lived twenty years of a marriage with her own terrible secret. The film explores a number of intriguing issues throughout - the meaning of marriage, the politics of Hong Kong's school system, the loss of Chinese identity - before ending with an emotional A-bomb that somehow manages to be both ambiguous and devastating. Although all the actors are superb (including newcomer Karena Lam), the film's finest moment belongs to Mui, when she finally releases her own carefully-pent-up frustration. One of the very best dramas from 2001, and a worthy successor to Hui's ORDINARY HEROES.

Reviewed by: reelcool
Date: 05/21/2002
Summary: Boring!

This film has nothing to offer the audience. Unless you are suffering from insomnia - don't watch this, because it is just too boring. About a teacher-student, love relationship, and its not-so-happy consequences. Story sounds interesting enough, but it never really develops into anything worth your time. Instead, it just glosses over the content, leaves you unfulfilled, and you feel cheated. You would get just as much out of this film by reading the synopsis. Too bad, because acting, and everything else was good, but the story was just not there. Ann Hui is a good director, but this movie is too boring to recommend.