Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Love Never Dies

There seems to be some interesting films coming out of America made by young Viet-American directors. I hadn't been aware of them previously, but one of the DVD shops in Cabramatta sells them, and I have really enjoyed all of the ones I've watched.
I just saw a wonderful ghost story called Love Never Dies, directed by one Victor Vu, and it was tremendous fun. It combines so many of the elements of Asian horror cinema that would be familiar to any fans of the Hong Kong and Japanese films which are so fashionable right now. Stirred into the mix is a healthy dose of Buddhist mysticism and an interesting sexual tension that I think always underlies ghost stories.
In this film, a young woman is suffering frequent miscarriages, and as a result her marriage to a handsome young doctor is crumbling. What neither of them realises is that her troubles stem from a romantic attachment formed in a previous life. As the heroine is abused by her selfish husband and her half-mad mother, who is herself obsessed with the dead, she sinks into a state of spirit possession as the past leaks into the present.
It is a well-made film, with a beautiful cast and a reasonably well-paced plot. It also features some excellent performances, most notably from the wonderful Catherine Thuy Ai as the hopeless mother. Ai has featured in other American-Vietnamese productions, and she has a wonderful screen presence. There is also a cameo from a real-live Buddhist monk, and he performs surprisingly well. Not quite sure about the propriety of a real Buddhist monk performing a scripted role in a feature film, however. I seem to remember that a prominent American-Vietnamese monk had a role in Oliver Stone's Heaven & Earth, but he never said anything - he was just seen performing a ritual. Anyway, I'm just being a spiritual pedant.
Another aspect I found interesting (apart from the amalgamation of Catholic and Buddhist spiritualities, something which is characteristically Vietnamese) was the fact that this is the first of these films I have seen to be set in the US. The others have been set in a mythical kind of Vietnamese landscape, but this story is planted firmly in the diaspora, and the fact of this is, I think, central to the storyline.
If you can find Love Never Dies, have a look. Entertaining and interestingly done.

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