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Para Para Sakura
Chinese: 芭啦芭啦櫻之花 "I think I swallowed a bug."
Cecilia Cheung and Aaron Kwok
Year: 2001
Director: Jingle Ma Chor-Sing
Producer: David Chan Sek-Hong, Li Zhu-An, Sasaki Kyo, Patricia Chong Lai-Chan
Writer: Susan Chan Suk-Yin
Cast: Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing, Cecilia Cheung Pak-ChiAh Niu, Hon Suet, Yip Tsui, Wong Yue-Suen, Tien Niu
The Skinny: Glossy attempt at a modern musical HK-style has some splotches of charm, but the whole experiment is so forced that it can only register as a failure. Attractive stars and top-notch production values can't hide the utter lack of craft, both in front of and behind the camera.
by Kozo:

In an apparent attempt to ape the success of Bollywood, Golden Harvest top gun Jingle Ma has given us Para Para Sakura, which unofficially translates as Wacky Dance Craze Cherry Blossom. Amazingly that could be the best description for this gratefully cheesy but still strained genre experiment.

Aaron Kwok stars as Philip Wong, a dance fitness instructor who is totally color-blind. It isn’t until he meets free spirit Yuri (Cecilia Cheung) that color begins to appear to him, and only when she’s dead center in his sights. Sadly wooing Yuri isn’t that easy. First he must contend with Yuri’s upcoming wedding to an old childhood friend. Second, Philip is saddled with all sorts of screwy hang-ups that could only exist in the movies. He believes he’s under a curse from one of his dad’s old girlfriends to be rendered alone whenever he utters the words, “I Love You.” Furthermore, Philip has a penchant for acting like a complete idiot and shooting off at the mouth. That’s fine by Yuri because she also has a penchant for acting like a complete idiot and shooting off at the mouth.

Eventually, the new couple must find trust and hope among the multitudes of plot devices that threaten to destroy their blessed union. And they have to pause for the occasional cathartic dance number that either alienates or enchants you with its Cantopop rhythms and eclectic dance styles. We get a lot of wacky dancing in this movie, from the eponymous Para Para to breakdancing to (No!) Celtic dance. Midway through the film, there’s a car crash and Kwok decides to start Riverdancing on the cars much to the joy of passerbys and even the attending traffic cops, who start hoofing it instead of handing out tickets.

Once Kwok begins acting like Michael Flatley the natural urge may be to destroy your television, but I actually managed to keep watching. Ultimately Para Para Sakura has a few things going for it. One, it has impressive production design and lovely cinematography. Two, it’s utterly watchable in that train wreck/rubbernecking sort of way. From the opening minutes where Kwok has a dance duel with a rival to the closing music video, the whole thing is so insanely bizarre that it begs finishing – just to say that you finished watching Para Para Sakura.

Besides, what other film in 2001 can boast the two most annoying performances of the year? In further proof that Jingle Ma cannot direct actors, he lets Kwok and Cheung overact like madmen, the result of which may be a shattered television tube. Cheung in particular is grating as all hell, which is sad because it appears her acting chops have atrophied since her promising debut in King of Comedy. She seems to be suffering from the Anita Yuen syndrome, which is a rapid ascent to stardom thanks to an appealing uniqueness, followed soon by a career stall as said uniqueness becomes a one-note handicap. A more mature role with some poise would be just the thing to expand Cheung’s range. 

By film’s end, the depth of the production hits us: Philip Wong’s colorblind handicap is actually a metaphor for his entire character. This Karate Kid-like pearl of wisdom is the key that frees his heart and soul, and allows for the characters to express their ultimate joy and freedom with…a Para Para dance number! Aside from the fact that Para Para is like the Japanese Macarena, any film that celebrates its completion with an ultra-current dance craze is destined for the pop-culture trash heap. To say that this movie is awful would be one way to go, but that wouldn’t be doing justice to Jingle Ma’s creation. Someday I expect this film to be stacked beside Lambada: The Forbidden Dance as an example of hideously embarrassing fads of our youth. (Kozo 2001)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Golden Harvest Home Video
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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image courtesy of Golden Harvest Home Video Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen