Electric Shadows (2004)

I don’t very often watch movies from mainland China. I in general don’t really care that much for Hong Kong cinema, and films from the mainland tend to be even a rarer thing for me than HK movies, so anything Chinese spoken on my viewing list is a small, special occasion. Truth to be told, I mostly ended up seeing this due to the appealing cover art, rather than the plot synopsis. I know it’s shallow,  but I’m very visually oriented when browsing for movies and synopses in general can often be very misleading if not too ambiguous to get me interested, so it’s not like they always make the best of impression either.

As a whole, my feelings are a bit mixed on Electric Shadows. While the central story itself was pretty good and had some decently executed ideas, the encompassing melodrama was too much for me. It got a bit preoccupied with trying to squeeze as much emotional tragedy as possible from the story, to such extent that it became a bit of a overbearing at times and detrimental to the viewing experience. And there were more than one coincidence that made the plot a bit unbelievable on closer inspection. The two main characters actually already knew each other from their childhood, the whole deal with the parents and binoculars and the dog and everyone living in the same city now, etc. Nothing major, it all just piled up and got too plot convenient for my taste, and the movie wasn’t so good that you would be willing to ignore things like that.

One of the few things that really ended up making the movie interesting to watch was the setting of the flashbacks. You see, I have a bit perverse interest about communist China, especially if it’s set during Chairman Mao’s rule, so the story automatically caught my attention on a stronger level once the story jumped back to the main characters’ childhood. There’s just something fascinating about totalitarian dictatorship and stories using it as a core premise or a background setting that appeals to me on a deeper level. And while the era’s communist persecution isn’t the real focus of the movie, it did serve as a minor plot point  at one point in regards to the Ling-Ling’s mother and led to a brief struggle session (a practice that I personally find very fascinating), thus automatically increasing what was already an invested interest to see where the story was leading up to. And while it didn’t go where I was expecting in the end and was a bit too corny, it did prove an entertaining journey.

I would have liked to say that I was now interested in seeing more of Xiao Jiang’s filmography, as the movie was pretty decent and she might improve with time, but apparently she’s only made one other film so far, and it stars Jaycee Chan (of whom I haven’t yet seen to act, but I’m told he’s fairly awful and made mostly terrible films) and the movie itself seems to more or less uses the same type of flashback structure similar to this, so mild my interest pretty much died before it really even began.

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