Red Dust (1990)

November 17, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Director: Ho Yim
Writer: Ho Yim
Cast: Maggie Cheung, Brigitte Lin

Running Time: 94 min.

Plot: Stretching across the canvas of the Sino-Japanese War of the 30s, the subsequent Japanese surrender in 1945, and the onslaught of Communism, this film depicts an ill-fated romance between a talented lady novelist and a Chinese traitor working with the Japanese who fall victim to the mayhem of war and their tragic inability to reconcile political differences.

Despite some lively sequences and a full-range performance by Brigitte Lin, this little cultural-revolution soap-opera falls flat because it fails to deliver on its promise. In its wraparound narration, the film implies a great romantic story of passionate love; but it’s a story that never develops.

In fact, at some points the movie reaches a level of incoherency that makes it impossible to follow. Actions and reactions become meaningless, lost in a story that hardly a story, a tale that goes nowhere in a dozen different directions.

Maggie Cheung and a couple of other good actors appear in small parts as revolutionaries and inquisitors. But Brigitte carries the full weight of the picture on her shoulders. Brigitte is such a forceful actress, at times she very nearly pulls the picture out of the mire the writers and director made of it. Still, good performances aside, it’s just too muddled: the picture is not the bold political indictment it wants to be.

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