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Funeral March
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Charlene Choi and Eason Chan in Funeral March.
Chinese: 常在我心  
Year: 2001  
Director: Joe Ma Wai-Ho  
Producer: Gordon Chan Kar-Seung  
Cast: Eason Chan Yik-Shun, Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin, Candy Lo Hau-Yam, Kenneth Tsang KongSheila Chan Suk-Lan, Pauline Yam Bo-Lam, Liu Kai-Chi, Yu Sai-Tung
The Skinny: Affecting, well-acted film that transcends its overdone genre to deliver something that feels fresh. Joe Ma can apparently direct drama, too.
by Kozo:

Eason Chan plays a Duan, a young funeral director who's hired by Yee (Charlene Choi of the group Twins) to plan a funeral, namely hers. She has intestinal cancer, and anticipates her death despite the fact that she still has some chance of living. Duan agrees to help her with her funeral, but ends up spending just as much time encouraging her to live. He becomes Yee's "lifeline" which impels her to seek medical help and ultimately Duan's acceptance of her love.

The "terminal beauty"* plot device has been a staple of Hong Kong Cinema for years now. C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri is arguably the most beloved recent example, but the same plot device turns up in movies like Lost and Found, Dr. Mack, and Feel 100%...once more. Even the guys have had their turn (What a Wonderful World starring Andy Lau). Perhaps this was a reaction to the impending 1997 Reunification, as terminal illness could easily be seen as a metaphor for Hong Kong's return to the Mainland.

However, Funeral March was released in 2001. So what's its excuse? Nothing really, except it gets to tell a pretty decent story. Director Joe Ma, who's made his career out of mostly fluffy relationship comedies, drops his usual mode of direction and adopts a restrained, even opaque style that perfectly suits the somber script. He tells the story through action rather than exposition. That is, until the ending when exposition is absolutely necessary to explain the film's ultimate direction. The film's closure could be seen as reactionary twist, but it remains true to the characters and adds real resonance to the film.

Ma's choice of actors is a real plus, too. For his "terminal beauty," he chose newcomer Charlene Choi, whose common beauty and unpolished acting lend authenticity to the film. Eason Chan turns out to be a surprise. His previous work has been nearly unbearable (check out Comic King or Rumble Ages to see what I'm talking about), but his performance here is measured and fitting to the character. Chan has never projected a truly likable screen presence, but that is a quality that seems fitting for Duan, especially when we learn more about him. Chan seems more suited to drama than comedy. The same could be said for Joe Ma, who shows that he isn't all misty youth romances. Hopefully this marks a new direction for him. (Kozo 2001)

Notes: *Credit goes to John Charles of Hong Kong Digital for usage of term "terminal beauty".

21st Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
• Nomination - Best New Artist (Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen