"A fun and quirky script, along with stylish yet unpretentious cinematography by Peter Pau, makes this one of the top ten films of 1998."
- Vic Nguyen
Anna Magdalena (1998)
Literally: Anna Magdalina
Director: Hai Chung-Man
Producer: Claudie Chung Chun
Writer: Ivy Ho
Cast: Takeshi Kaneshiro (Gum Sing-Mo), Kelly Chan Wai-Lam, Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing, Anita Yuen Wing-Yee, Leslie Cheung Kwok-Wing, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Chung Chun, Jacky Cheung Hok-Yau, Leo Koo Kui-Kei, Josie Ho Chiu-Yee
Running Time: 92 min.
Plot: See reviews below.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: Chan Kar-fu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is quiet, shy and doesn't talk much to anyone unless he has to. For a living, he tunes pianos and leads a lonely lifestyle in a comfortable sized flat. Since he's a handsome and exceptionally nice guy, everyone around him is always trying to fix him up with women. He usually refuses and would rather fall in love on his own and by his choice.
One day Chan Kar-fu meets Yau Muk-yan (Aaron Kwok), who has just walked out on his heartbroken girlfriend and is now homeless because of this. Yau Muk-yan is a novice writer who likes to brag about his masterpiece novel that he hasn't even began to put down on paper yet. He doesn't work and practically doesn't have a penny to his name. Although he's something that's close to a bum on the streets, he still has his way with people, especially women, with his good looks and smooth-talking womanizer approach.
Since Yau Muk-yan doesn't have a roof over his head, he manages to temporarily stay at Chan Kar-fu's pad since the two hit it off when they first meet. As far as Chan Kar-fu's concerned, Yau Muk-yan is an all right guy, so why not.
One day, a beautiful babe named Mok Man Yee (Kelly Chen) moves into a room right above Chan Kar-fu's place. Her amateur piano skills are immediately heard the following morning and wake Chan Kar-fu and Yau Muk-yan. Yau Muk-yan becomes irritated by the constant piano noise. Chan Kar-fu, curious about the familiar sounding tune, deals with it.
Angry as hell, Yau Muk-yan takes action and knocks on her door to complain. It appears that both of them are on their way to becoming enemies, but hidden deep inside them is an instant attraction. Mok Man Yee falls for Yau Muk-yan and vice-versa. And yep, you guessed it - Chan Kar-fu also has fell for Mok Man Yee the moment he laid eyes on her. Unfortunately, Yau Muk-yan has already won her heart, which leaves Chan Kar-fu not only heartbroken, but a little bitter for his friendship towards Yau Muk-yan.
It appears to be another one of the cliched 'nice-guy loses, bad-guy wins' scenarios but "Anna Magdalena" goes beyond that in one of the strangest ways I've ever seen.
It's almost safe to say that "Anna Magdalena" is a 2-for-1 movie deal. First is the telling of a lighthearted love triangle between Chan Kar-fu, Yau Muk-yan and Mok Man Yee. Second is an odd apocalyptic-like fantasy, from the creative mind of Chan Kar-fu, which tells the story of "O" (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and "X" (Kelly Chen) - influenced by Chan Kar-fu's feelings towards his situation for Mok Man Yee. In between the two stories, is a very small subplot that involves a proof-reader trying to convince her boss (of a publishing company) that Chan Kar-fu's story of "X and O" is fresh, unusual and should be printed.
Overall, "Anna Magdalena" is entertaining, funny and different. If you're expecting a straight-forward romantic comedy, you're in for a big surprise. The ending isn't happy or sad, it's sorta just ends. For some, this leaves a big, fat "?" for their concluding thoughts on the film. For others, it may be solid and satisfying. I guess it all depends on the way you look at it.
The all-star cast featuring Takeshi Kaneshiro, Kelly Chan and Aaron Kwok give great performances. Also look out for a few cameos by Anita Yuen, Leslie Cheung, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai and Jacky Cheung. I was actually surprised with Aaron Kwok portrayal of "Yau Muk-yan". He seemed to play the part like a pro, which makes you wonder how close his real-life traits are to the role. Also featured in is Kelly Chen's beautiful love ballad, "Lover's Concerto". Talk about a beautiful voice.
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 7/10
VIC NGUYEN'S REVIEW: The UFO Film Group and Japan's Amuse Entertainment collaborated to bring the audience this lighthearted approach to love between opposites. Filled with cameo's by stars of UFO's past (Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing, Anita Yuen Wing-yee, Eric Tsang Chi-wai, and Jacky Cheung Hok-yau), along with stars from a newer generation (Takeshi Kaneshiro, Kelly Chan, and Aaron Kwok), the cast is star-studded and talent filled. A fun and quirky script, along with stylish yet unpretentious cinematography by Peter Pau, makes this one of the top ten films of 1998.
VIC NGUYEN'S RATING: 8.5/10