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,
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
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
provideor attempt to providesome 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 locationsespecially
in Hong Kongare 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)