Reviewed by: ororama
"The Pure and the Evil" is the story of two friends finishing school and beginning adult life. The title is rather misleading because the film shows little interest in the conventional life and hopes of the good girl. Its focus is on the ups and downs of her troubled friend.
May and Rose are students at a private school. May is a good girl from an upper class background, intensely loyal to her friend Rose. Rose seems to be a typical student, but May discovers that she lives in seedy circumstances with the older sister who raised her, and has been working as a bar girl. Rose is a femme fatale, seemingly irresistible to any man, and some women, who encounter her. Most of the time, she seems to become involved with a new sexual partner without making any effort. She sets out on a few occasions to steal a boyfriend or husband, without any apparent sense that she is doing something wrong. Her character is reminiscent of Lulu in G.W. Pabst's "Pandora's Box," and it is possible that "Pandora's Box" is a model for this film.
The plot moves quickly and the movie is never dull. The casting of Chen Pei-Hsi as Rose is somewhat problematic. She never overacts, and convincingly portrays a force of nature who seems unsure of why she has power over others, but is ready to make the most of it. However, while Chen is very attractive and sexy, she is no Louise Brooks. She doesn't seem to be a likely contestant for a Miss Hong Kong-type beauty contest. It is not surprising that more than a few people would find her desirable, but it seems doubtful that some of her admirers would go as far as they do to have her.
The movie has fairly explicit heterosexual sex scenes. It provides a depressing glimpse of a bar scene in which lower class high school girls are drawn into prostitution by the promise of easy money, not realizing that they are entering a trap that they are unlikely to escape. The one lesbian relationship that is clearly present is implied, not shown.
Tai Liang-Chun is good as May, but her life is not the focus of the film. May's stability serves as a contrast to the volatility of Rose's life, and her rather bland goodness contrasts with Rose's amorality, which could be characterized as evil before the end of the story.
The ending of the movie was not difficult to forsee, although the way it came about was unusual and something of a shock.
"The Pure and the Evil" could have been a standard melodrama, but proved to be more than that because of the excellent performance of Chen Pei-Hsi and a fast-moving and well-executed plot.
Reviewed by: STSH
Summary: Odd moral soap opera
An unusual mixture of kitchen sink realism, melodrama, fairytale and moral tale. Much of the story is about the changing relationship between two strong-willed young women, Rose and May. Rose is the stronger, and she eventually wins Miss Hong Kong, but she envies the apparent success of May, who marries the dashing and successful Clement. The tone is generally on the feverish side, even a bit operatic at times.
Reviewer Score: 4
Though basically a soap opera, the ending is a stunner. In the space of no more than two minutes, a secret is betrayed after one of the main characters is splashed with petrol by a jealous lover and set alight. The closing titles amange to top even this, with a ludicrous homily which warns young women not to be like the main character, and implying they should be good and well-behaved instead. Bah !
Overall, just average.