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The Soong Sisters
|     review    |     awards     |     availability     |
Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and Vivian Wu
Chinese: 宋家皇朝
Year: 1997
Director: Mabel Cheung Yuen-Ting
Producer: Alex Law Kai-Yu
Cast: Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, Michelle Yeoh, Vivian Wu Kwan-Mui, Winston Chao, Wu Xing-Guo, Jiang Wen, Elaine Kam Yin-Ling, Niu Zhen-Hua
The Skinny: Laudable historical drama gives us plenty to chew on, but little to actually digest.
by Kozo:

Clocking in at 144 minutes, this epic-length historical drama is compelling in that it features a vital part of Chinese history, but distant in that it doesn’t allow us to emotionally connect with any of the historical figures. Michelle Yeoh is Soong Ai-Ling, who married H. H. Kung (Jiang Wen), the richest man in China and later the Finance Minister to Chiang Kai-Shek (Wu Xing-Guo). Chaing married Soong sister May-Ling (Vivian Wu), shortly before embarking on his iron reign of China and Taiwan. The third sister is Ching-Ling, played by Maggie Cheung, who married Sun Yat-Sen (Winston Chao), the father of China’s nationalist party.

Politics plays a huge part in the film’s story. The struggle for China to gain its identity is the backdrop for the squabbles among the Soong siblings and their respective husbands. The question is: who should we root for? Depending on what political affiliation you have, different figures may be more revered than others (if you’re a Communist then Ching-Ling’s your gal, but if you’re a Nationalist you’d have to go with May-Ling). The film’s point-of-view is drastically muted, and as a result it's difficult to find the film compelling. Sure, history matters, but if emotion is lost in the proceedings you might as well crack open a book.

Part of this could be attributed to the film’s massive censorship, which featured five months for script approval and lots of cuts to placate the big guys in China. Considering The Return, the cuts are politically sensible, but the film suffers ultimately. The performances are fine, but without an emotional anchor, the whole exercise seems to drift endlessly. This is a good history lesson, but not a potent human drama. (Kozo 1997)

Awards: 17th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
• Winner - Best Actress (
Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk)
• Winner - Best Supporting Actor (
Jiang Wen)
• Winner - Best Cinematography (Arthur Wong Ngok-Tai)
• Winner - Best Art Direction (Ma Poon-Chiu)
• Winner - Best Costume Design (Woh Tin Wai Mei)
• Winner - Best Original Film Score (Randy Miller, Choi Doh-Long)
• Nomination - Best Picture
• Nomination - Best Director (Mabel Cheung Yuen-Ting)
Nomination - Best Supporting Actress (Elaine Kam Yin-Ling)
Nomination - Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Yeoh)
• Nomination - Best Screenplay (Alex Law Kai-Yu)
• Nomination - Best Sound Effects
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Vicol Entertainment Ltd. (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image courtesy of Golden Harvest Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen