Rouge (1987)

It takes a special film to transcend truly bad subtitles. I’ve seen this particular translator before. How many could there be who interpret “sun” as “macho fire”? “The macho fire is strong,” says our fading heroine, a ghost named Fleur.

Played with delicacy by one of China’s biggest stars, Anita Mui, Fleur was a courtesan in the Hong Kong of the 1930s, where she fell in love with Master Number 12 (Leslie Cheung–always a favorite). She died to be with him forever, but he didn’t appear at her side in Hell. She returns in bewilderment to the world of the living 50 years later to find him.

Here she recruits a newspaper clerk and his girlfriend to aid her. Frightened, yet drawn in by the romance of her tragic story, they apply themselves to the task.

Rouge won a Best Picture for producer Jackie Chan in the Hong Kong Film Awards, in addition to Best Actress for Mui, and Best Director for Stanley Kwan. The film is just that good. You find yourself drawn in to the passion and personalities of the courtesan and her lover–but from the outside their motivations are unclear until the heart-wrenching finale. Beautifully acted, the only flaw in the picture is that it is cut much like a kung-fu film: quickly and abruptly. This doesn’t suit the langorous and mysterious story.

If you can wade through the macho fire, I highly recommend renting the haunting story of Rouge.

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