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Sound of Colors

     

Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Miriam Yeung connect in Sound of Colors.

Chinese: 地下鐵  
Year: 2003
Director: Joe Ma Wai-Ho
Producer: Jacky Pang Yee-Wah
Based on: The illustration book by Jimmy Liao
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Miriam Yeung Chin-Wah, Chang Chen, Dong Jie, Fan Chih-Wei, Guey Lun-Mei, Eric Kot Man-Fai, Lam Suet, Alex Fong Lik-Sun, Tsui Tin-Yau, Race Wong Yuen-Ling, Rosanne Wong Yuen-Kwan, Matthew Chow Hoi-Kwong, Sammy, Chan Man-Lei, Fire Lee
The Skinny: Cheery holiday fluff which is as likable as it is completely manufactured and disposable. Good star power, pleasing cinematography, and competent direction make this decent commercial fodder. Still, it really is just commercial fodder, and questionably coherent fodder at that.
   
Review
by Kozo:

As pedigrees go, you can't really do much better than Sound of Colors. Though it was directed by inconsistent youth-romance auteur Joe Ma Wai-Ho, the film is based on an illustrated book from Jimmy Liao (who also inspired Turn Left Turn Right), and features star power AND acting cred in leads Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Miriam Yeung and Chang Chen. On an even higher lever, the film was produced by Jet Tone Pictures, the same firm which handles all the work from some guy named Wong Kar-Wai. Sound of Colors does have some common ground with Wong Kar-Wai's work: it features multiple storylines, effective urban locations, and winning romantic connections. However, there is one way in which Sound of Colors absolutely does NOT resemble Wong's work: it's nowhere near as good.

Box office princess Miriam Yeung is Cheung Hoi-Yeuk, a blind girl who gets a heavenly chance in love. And by heavenly, we mean the heavens literally favor her. While in an MTR station, Hoi-Yeuk is asked by an altogether too-smug fellow (Fan Chih-Wei) to borrow her walking stick. She agrees, and soon he returns with a gift for her: a flyer for a modern-day matchmaking service. The service is run by a fast-talking Hong Kong chap by the name of Ho Yuk-Ming (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), who's being beset by unhappy customers when Hoi-Yeuk first calls. They don't connect the first time, but Hoi-Yeuk's father (Lam Suet) finds the flyer and brings her to Ming, asking that he find her a guy for Christmas. Ming agrees to help, but the road is rough. Nobody wants to meet a blind girl, even if she's incredibly sweet and is as plainly charming as Miriam Yeung. Striking out, Ming sets himself up with Hoi-Yeuk for her first "date", which creates a few subtle sparks but no all-out romance.

Then Ming goes blind. How this happens is unknown; Ming simply wakes up one morning without sight, leading to lots of bitter emoting by Tony Leung as he angrily lashes out for being without sight. His friends Eric Kot, Alex Fong Lik-Sun, and Tsui Tin-Yau try to help him through it, but they can't help him. However, Cheung Hoi-Yeuk can. She patiently helps him past his pride and initial pain, and brings him to her blindness center, where he gets Ma Wing-Shing comic books read to him and learns how to use walking guides for the subway. Finally, romance between the two blossoms. Yay!

But this is only half (or maybe 70%) of the total story of Sound of Colors. The other part starts in Taipei, where shy guy Chung Ching (Chang Chen of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) tries to write a secret admirer Christmas card to an oblivious co-worker (Guey Mun-Lei). However, his card gets switched with a standard business holiday card by a mischievous and too-smug fellow (also Fan Chih-Wei) who can apparently be in two places at the same time. As a result, Chung's intended gets a formal Christmas card, and the lovey-dovey "wanna hold your hand" version goes to a heartbroken young woman named Dong (Mainland actress Dong Jie) in Shanghai. Upon receiving a thankful return card, Chung hightails it for Shanghai to visit the distraught young woman. Not surprisingly, romance blossoms.

Pretty much the entire film can be summed up with those two words: romance blossoms. Sound of Colors provides nothing more than the chance to see physically compatible people of better-than-average beauty get together under the most manufactured of circumstances. Those circumstances are the aforementioned heavenly ones; Fan Chih-Wei does double duty as a pair of angels who shows up to lead these wayward lovers in the right directions. Why this happens is unknown, and even unnecessary. Love is something that requires nothing more than a push in the right direction, and Sound of Colors handles the pushing by glossing over it completely. The angels show up, make a couple of minor inquiries, and give the prospective lovers a virtual slap on the behind to get them moving. Not surprisingly, it all works out. Everyone gets together and goes home happy, and very little tension and/or suspense is created. Really, nothing much happens in this film other than one minor bit of conflict, and even that is glossed over by a manufactured ending which features two blind people attempting to find each other in a Holiday shopping crowd. Nothing is spoiled by telling you this: Sound of Colors features the mega-mega happy ending!

Which is where the film can either sink or swim, depending on the viewer's taste. Fans of undemanding fare will likely be happy, but those who would like more complex emotional content should probably watch something a little more demanding, like Chungking Express or even My Wife is 18. The screenplay (credited to Joe Ma and three other screenwriters) does nothing to make Sound of Colors more than a perfunctory exercise in celluloid romance. It does provide—or attempt to provide—some metaphorical existential content on finding love via the Taipei-Shanghai story, but even those details seem odd and out of place. At one point, Chung Ching and Dong travel the subways taking pictures of all the couples they can find. A charming moment, to be sure, but also a cloying and questionably necessary one. Combined with the fact that the Taipei-Shanghai segment gets cross-cut with the Hong Kong segment in jarringly incongruous ways, and you have the basic problem with the film: it's incoherent and woefully underdeveloped.

The film does have its share of minor joys. The urban locations—especially in Hong Kong—are charming and effective, and the cinematography and art direction are pleasing and appropriate. Miriam Yeung is lovely and gratefully restrained as Hoi-Yeuk, and she even manages to outshine Tony Leung, whose performance seems to belong in another, more commercially crass motion picture. Still, there are numerous scenes of silent chemistry between the two, and watching them blindly navigate Hong Kong together is subtly charming. Joe Ma's direction is effective, and not too bombastic, though it's also nothing to write home about. In fact, nothing in the film is worth writing home about. Its wafer-thin premise and unchallenging screenplay make it appropriate date material, but that's the extent of what it is. It's not complex or overtly involving; it's just quietly pleasing commercial fare which will likely be forgotten minutes after being seen. Sound of Colors has pretty people that get together, and it both looks and sounds nice. For some people that's probably enough. (Kozo 2004)

   
Note: • Some North American retail outlets carry a version of Sound of Colors mastered by World Video, and not by Mei Ah Entertainment. Buyers beware, because the World Video version of the film does not contain any English subtitles. If at all possible, find a way to get the Mei Ah DVD instead.
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Featurette, Audio Commentary, trailer, music video, outtakes, deleted scenes
 
 image courtesy of Jet Tone Pictures
   
 
 
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