Wu Yen (2001)

March 27, 2003 • Film, hong kong, Reviews

Director: Johnnie To Kei-Fung
Script: Wai Kai-Fai,Yau Nai-Hoi, Ben Wong King-Fai
Producer: Johnnie To Kei-Fung, Wai Kai-Fai

Cast: Anita Mui Yim-Fong (Emperor Qi / Ancestor Huan), Sammi Cheng Sau-Man (Wu Yen), Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi (Fairy Enchantress / Yinchun), Raymond Wong Ho-Yin, Lam Suet

Cantonese: Chung Miu Yim
Mandarin: Zhong1 Wu2 Yan4
Literally: No Beauty
Country: Hong Kong
Genre: Period Comedy
Rating: II B (Hong Kong)
Theatrical Run: 01/18/2001

Language: Cantonese
Running Time: 120 min

wuyen2Wu Yen is the latest collaboration by director/producers Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai, who set the standard for quality in the post-1997 HK film industry with their Milkyway Image film company productions. Their comedy Needing You was the surprise local hit of 2000. Wu Yen is their first Chinese New Year film, a period comedy that looks like it should be one of the hits of 2001.

The plot is based on an old Chinese folk legend that has been depicted in several earlier Hong Kong films and featured in Cantonese opera. As portrayed in the current film, the story concerns a complicated love triangle set in the distant past. A female outlaw warrior Zheng Wuyan (aka Chung Mo-yim, aka Wu Yen, played by Sammi Cheng) and a Fairy Enchantress who moves between male and female personas (Cecilia Cheung) vie for the affections of the Emperor Qi (Anita Mui).

—Shelly Kracier with Sebastian Tse, Chinese Cinema

*Scenes from Wu Yen
© Milkyway Image Productions



“Filled to the brim as it is with cross-dressing characters, over-the-top — not just larger-than-life — personalities, rather warped love triangles, female as well as male fighters, dollops of low brow but also its share of clever humor along with contemporary riffs and often irreverent modern updates of historical material, WU YEN seems to be the latest representative of the often bemusing as well as amusing comic tradition and genre of Hong Kong films whose other notable exemplars include The Eagle Shooting Heroes, Holy Weapon and All’s Well, Ends Well.

At the same time, the rapid fire verbal delivery of its stars also recall Stephen Chow. (There is one particular moment in the film — when Anita Mui utters the phrase ‚Äúgive me another chance, (older) sis — that definitely made me think that I was beholding the female equivalent of the “mo lei tau” king in action!); and can leave the viewer feeling somewhat nonplussed and exhausted but also actually exhilarated post viewing this two hour long plus fast-paced movie.”

–YTSL, Hong Kong Cinema, View From Brooklyn Bridge

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