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The Allure of Tears
 The Allure of Tears (2011)     The Allure of Tears (2011)

(left) Aarif Lee and Zhou Dongyu, and (right) Joe Chen and Shawn Dou discover The Allure of Tears.
Chinese: 傾城之淚
Year: 2011
Director: Barbara Wong Chun-Chun
Writer: Silver Hau, Skipper Cheng, Barbara Wong Chun-Chun, Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui
Cast: Zhou Dongyu, Aarif Lee, Gigi Leung Wing-Kei, Richie Ren, Joe Chen Qiao-En, Shawn Dou, Dennis Chan Kwok-San, Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui, Yao Jue
  The Skinny: Tiring omnibus of tearjerkers uses familiar situations and good-looking actors to wring pathos, but dispenses with the development and characters needed to make it all work. Can someone put a moratorium on terminal disease movies?
by Kozo:
Conceptually, Allure of Tears is sound. As executed, however, the film is pure misery. Barbara Wong directs this omnibus of tearjerker stories loosely tied to each other through minor background details. Story one, called in Chinese “The First Drop of Tear,” tells the tale of young cameraman You Le (Aarif Lee), who collapses one day and ends up in the hospital the next. He’s got brain cancer, and he’s bitter and upset, telling everyone to go away at the top of his very able lungs. He refuses help and sympathy, but eventually softens to Power Girl (yep, that’s what they call her), played by Under the Hawthorn Tree breakout star Zhou Dongyu. She’s got blood cancer but is eternally chipper, softening You Le’s heart.

The twist from this First Drop comes from the duo’s pledge to die together, but such darkness is short-lived, as the standard “live on” platitudes soon come to the fore. The First Drop is a complete film that’s mashed down into forty-plus minutes; as such, it covers all the bases in its “A” plot without adding a “B” plot to develop its characters or encourage audience identification. That’s not a big problem for Zhou Dongyu, who’s so naturally sweet that she’s affecting even when delivering clichéd monologues. It's a problem for Aarif Lee, however, who alarmingly overacts his pained brain cancer patient. Plot holes exist, but with only forty minutes to deliver this thing, how could you expect any more from the filmmakers? However, we shouldn’t excuse them, either.

The “Second Drop of Tear” is a bit lighter; it’s the wannabe inspirational tale of some aging, unsuccessful classical musicians (led by Richie Jen) who band together to put on a benefit concert to save their failing music academy. The beneficiaries, besides their nostalgia, are their sick teacher (Dennis Chan) and also the academy’s star graduate, Yanglin (Gigi Leung), who went on to become a superstar violinist but later mysteriously retired. The secret behind her retreat from the music world is another tearjerker trope, but the actual cause – delivered in flashback – beggars some belief. Basically, if you play violin while standing in high heels on a 2-meter tall platform, you should expect accidents. Table-dancing violinists aside, this Second Drop is an OK outline, but the lack of development renders the whole thing only marginally affecting.

The “Third Drop of Tear” follows the first two drops in that it covers a very complete story in only a third of the time, but its story so requires expository explanation that it doesn’t feel like much of a film. Low-income lovers Sheng (Under the Hawthorn Tree’s Shawn Dou) and Xiaocai (Taiwan drama star Joe Chen) court cute but split up to pursue better lives, hoping to one day reunite. The Third Drop has even more unconvincing plot holes and narrative leaps than the previous two stories combined, with some decisions between the couple – especially their decision to break up – never supported beyond a soulful crying jag. The Third Drop’s look is also distracting, with a color-saturated, grainy image that implies that the filmmakers are attempting to make Beijing double for Buenos Aires. The ending is yet another sudden tearjerker trope, but without the benefit of a full motion picture to develop everything, it just seems like a cheap attempt at pathos.

Since Allure of Tears is billed as a trio of tearjerkers, it ostensibly fulfills its goals, with pretty people, obvious pathos and at least twenty moments where characters tear up or full-on bawl. The problem is simply that Barbara Wong, Lawrence Cheng (who co-writes, co-produces and co-stars) and company are too ambitious and assume too much. They deliver the outlines of not one but three full-length tearjerkers but speed through them like they’re checking off a list of required clichés. Those moments, small details or side storylines that endear the characters to the audience are missing, in favor of too many tear-jerking moments that arrive only minutes after the last tear-jerking moment. Allure of Tears should have shortened or lightened its stories, aiming for throat lumps rather than actual tears, but Wong and company swing for the fences and full-on waterworks. Sadly, they whiff. Tears have an allure, but not if they’re force-fed this clumsily. (Kozo 2012)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles

*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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