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The Island Tales
|     review    |     availability     |


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Ocean Shores
International Language Track
(Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, English)
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

Year: 2000
Director: Stanley Kwan Kam-Pang
Cast: Michelle Reis, Shu Qi, Takao Osawa, Kaori Momoi, Julian Cheung Chi-Lam, Elaine Kam Yin-Ling, Gordon Liu Chia-Hui
The Skinny: The quirky story of seven people stuck on a remote island, quarantined by the government due to a viral outbreak. The intriguing premise and talented cast show tremendous potential, but ultimately, the movie's a bit of a yawner.
Review by

     Stanley Kwan's The Island Tales spotlights the cross-cultural intersection of seven lives on what may be the group's final night on earth. There's Sharon (Michelle Reis), an icy Chinese-American banker, and her friend Marianne (Kaori Momoi) who cross paths with Haruki (Takao Osawa), a reclusive Japanese writer, and Mei Ling (Shu Qi), a spirited Taiwanese girl. Completing the ensemble are a gay innkeeper (Gordon Liu), a bartender (Elaine Jin), and a celebrity (Julian Cheng). In a bizarre twist, the characters learn that the government has quarantined the island due to an outbreak of a deadly virus. Faced with the prospect of certain death, the ragtag group band together for the evening to help stave off their feelings of loneliness and despair.
     Sounds interesting, doesn't it? Well, I'm sorry to report that it's not. In some ways, the film is hindered by its own subject matter; the plot just meanders around, wallowing in so much doom and gloom that you just wonder when it's going to end. Don't get me wrong, the film has its moments, but on the whole, it doesn't really deliver anything of real consequence. Most peculiarly, two of the film's biggest attractions are probably its greatest weaknesses - Shu Qi and Michelle Reis. For all her beauty and charm, Shu Qi cannot help but grate on one's nerves with her shrill voice and thankless, ditsy role. And poor Michelle Reis! Relegated to performing most of her dialogue in English, the actress sounds downright amateurish in most of her scenes, an effect that is so jarring that it impedes the viewer from forging any sense of connection with the film or its characters. The other performers are fine, but they can't save the film's artificial dialogue, which ranges from quasi-poetic to out-and-out clunky.
     In the end, The Island Tales struggles to be a plaintive rumination on…well, something. But it's that very vagueness that undermines its intentions, whatever the hell they might be. I have to admit that at times, I wished the characters would all just hurry up and die of the virus—at least then I'd be out of my misery. (Calvin McMillin 2002)

image courtesy of the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen