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Stanley Kwan
Anita Mui Yim-fong, Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing, Alex Man Chi-leung
Kang-Chien Chiu
A ghost seeks her lover decades after her death.
Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Cantonese PCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 6/21/2022

• Interview with Director Stanley Kwan
• “Gender in Chinese Cinema” Documentary
• “Still Love You After All These” Short Film
• Trailer
• Booklet


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Rouge: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1987)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 22, 2022)

Who knew that “Cantopop” – ie, Cantonese pop music – was a thing? Probably millions of Chinese, but for a white American, this genre became new to me.

From 1987, Rouge involves “Cantopop” stars Anita Mui Yim-fong and Leslie Cheung Kwok-Wing. However, the story itself doesn’t focus on their day jobs.

Set in Hong Kong circa the 1934, Fleur (Yim-fong) works as a courtesan in seedy clubs. She meets wealthy Twelfth Master Chen (Kwok-Wing) and embarks on a romance that involves a suicide pact.

When Fleur never meets Chen in the afterlife, she seeks to find him in 1987. Her spirit pursues her old flame and engages 20-something Yuan Ting (Alex Man Chi-Leung) and his girlfriend An Chor (Emily Chu) to solve this puzzle.

At the very least, Rouge comes with an unusual plot. Mismatched lovers kill themselves to unite in the afterlife and get lost along the way? Not exactly Hollywood cliché material, is it?

Though it does feel like Rouge presages a big US hit: 1990’s Ghost. While the latter took on a more conventional approach, one can see connections.

Beyond a potential influence on Ghost and an intriguing concept, though, I can’t find much to endorse about Rouge. The film can’t sustain its basic idea and becomes tedious as it goes.

Honestly, Rouge would likely fare much better as a short. It boasts enough worthwhile content to run 20 minutes or so, but stretched to 98 minutes, it grows thin and tiresome.

The story structure doesn’t help. After a brief stint in 1934, the film jumps to 1987 earlier than expected.

Once the movie establishes Fleur in “modern times”, it later provides ample flashbacks to illustrate the Fleur/Chen relationship. I can find no logical reason that Rouge doesn’t tell the tale in a chronological manner and feel it would work better if it did that.

Granted, some revelations need to come as flashbacks. Nonetheless, most of the 1934 material could appear before we get to 1987, and that would seem more engaging.

Honestly, after the preface and then Fleur’s discussions with her new 1987 pals, we don’t learn anything noteworthy from the flashbacks. We see predictable details of the issues the doomed couple encountered, and these don’t really flesh out matters in a compelling way.

That occurs because Fleur tells us so much in the “present”. If shown chronologically, the 1934 romance would impact us more strongly and then eliminate all the shoe leather we hear in 1987, choices that would streamline this slow narrative.

Though I don’t know how much difference it would make because Rouge really doesn’t enjoy enough story or character development to sustain its running time. A tighter version would seem more engaging but I don’t think it would fix the issues we encounter.

Again, this just tends to feel like a short film stretched too far. At 20 minutes, it could boast reasonable impact, but at 98 minutes, it becomes a chore.

I do like the movie’s subtle take, as it doesn’t overdo the supernatural elements. Yim-fong also offers a good performance, one that seems ethereal without trying too hard.

Otherwise, Rouge becomes a soap opera with a twist. I like the inherent concept but the execution leaves this as a slow journey without the payoff to make it worth the effort.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C-/ Bonus B

Rouge appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer captured the source well.

Overall definition seemed appealing. A little softness impacted a few interiors, but the majority of the movie brought appealing accuracy and detail.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. Grain seemed a bit heavy but appropriate, and I witnessed no print flaws.

Colors went for a fairly natural vibe that worked fine. They seemed well-rendered and appropriate for this tale.

Blacks looked deep and dense, while shadows offered good delineation. Across the board, the image satisfied.

As for the film’s PCM monaural soundtrack, it seemed competent for a film of this sort but not great. Speech became the weakest link, as the dubbed lines tended to appear somewhat edgy and thin.

Effects came with similar concerns, as they could come across as a bit rough. Music worked better and brought warm tones. Given the movie’s era, I thought it merited a “C-”, but the audio didn’t seem positive.

A few extras fill out the set, and we open with a new Interview with Director Stanley Kwan. During this 39-minute, 34-second chat, Kwan touches on aspects of his life/career, with some emphasis on the making of Rouge.

Conducted by filmmaker Sasha Chuk, Kwan provides an engaging overview. He presents a nice examination of the topics in this useful chat.

From 1996, Gender in Chinese Cinema spans one-hour, 19-minutes, 27 seconds. Directed by Kwan, it involves remarks from Kwan, filmmaker Ang Lee, John Woo, Chang Cheh, Xie Jin, Chen Kaige, Xie Yan, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Edward Yang, Allen Fong, Tsai Ming Liang, Zhang Yuan, critics Law Kar and Peggy Chiao, Kwan’s mother, and actors Leslie Cheung and Ti Lung.

As implied by the title, the documentary looks at gender constructs in Chinese films, with some emphasis on homosexual domains. While we get generally good information, the program pursues this in a somewhat scattershot manner, so it can become tough to separate the wheat from the chaff.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we finish with Still Love You After All These. A 1997 short film by Kwan, it runs 44 minutes, seven seconds.

Still looks at Hong Kong through the lens of Kwan’s life and memories. I can’t say I find it especially compelling, but it offers an intriguing component for this set.

The set concludes with a booklet that includes art, credits and an essay from critic Dennis Lim. It adds some value to the package.

Despite an intriguing premise, Rouge cannot find enough substance to sustain its running time. The roots of a good movie exist but the end result feels sluggish and thin. The Blu-ray comes with very good picture as well as erratic audio and a few bonus materials. I wanted to like Rouge but found myself bored by it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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