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    Plain Jane to the Rescue (1982: John Woo: Hong Kong)

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    Masterofoneinchpunch

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    Plain Jane to the Rescue (1982: John Woo: Hong Kong)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:54 am

    I found some interesting information on this film.

    Plain Jane to the Rescue (Chinese title: 八彩林亞珍) (1982: John Woo: Hong Kong)

    While the first John Woo comedy I saw Laughing Times was no laughing matter this Golden Harvest production is actually decent with some laughs and well as social commentary analogous to the Hui Brothers films (Ricky Hui is in this). Strangely enough this is the strongest female character in a Woo film that I have seen. This is not as surprising when you find that this actually is the third film in the Lam Ah Chun series which actress Josephine Siao Fong-fong reprised and co-produced her popular role which she originated in a TVB series It’s Just So Simple (點只咁簡單; the English translation is mine, I found a few different names for the series online so I am not sure if there was an English title). The character must have resonated because in 1999, TVB named her one of five of the all-time most memorable female characters. I first saw Siao in Fong Sai Yuk II (yes I saw the sequel first) as the mother of the Jet Li titular character and she was quite impressive and funny. She had starred in over 200 films before that movie. She is also the most memorable and funny aspect of this film.

    Jenny Lam Ah Chun has a mushroom hairdo, a tomboy dressing style and coke-bottle glasses. She is also a talented time bomb. She is so well known at the unemployment office she fills in to help there. She will pretty much take any job as you can see from the episodic beginning where one employment after another leads to disaster or at least getting her spectacles broken.

    Ricky Hui Koon-ying, who had already acted in several John Woo comedies starting with Money Crazy, is Tsang Fei-fang a corporate lackey for Zada Electronic Industries who reunites his old friendship with Jenny when she gets a job within the company. He, of course, is in love and later leads to one of the most bizarre courtship gifts a man can give a woman. Jenny gets a job to tutor a very rich man (Michael Lee Ming-yeung), the owner and father of the President of the corporation, in the ways of etiquette. Apparently he had previously scared off several tutors already with his brutish behavior. But now he has someone much more tenacious and difficult to get rid of.

    Meanwhile the President Mr. Sha (Charlie Cho: Police Story) is planning to take over the world or at least Hong Kong with his almost ubiquitous company (one funny side joke is that companies logo gets seen more and more as the film goes on). To do that he also has to get rid of his dad who is the majority stockholder. The dad is old and not in great health, but Sha does not feel like waiting.

    Woo has stated that the tunnel scene towards the end of the film is an allegory to the future handover and “was the first Hong Kong film to talk about 1997.” He would use some of these same allegories in Hard Boiled during the hospital scenes. For example the baby metaphor in both films represents a new beginning, hope and purity. It was also a personal allusion as well. He was obviously worried about the handover. His wife Anne was in the United States at the time and gave birth to his son during the filming of this movie. That inspired Woo to put a similar situation as an ending for this film.

    The film does suffer from unevenness and lack of cohesiveness, most likely because of the quick film schedule and lack of a complete script. This is especially noticeable during the finale which really feels thrown in like “hey let’s destroy as many cars as we can with our remaining budget.” The social commentary is “hit and miss” and feels sometimes akin to a Michael Hui film. However, Josephine is a joy to watch and Jenny is a wonderful and fully realized comedic character like Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. I would have loved to see more of Jenny and hope eventually that the first two films come out on DVD. The supporting crew is excellent with Ricky Hui and Michael Lee in his first role (that I know of) at the age of 71 who would go on to act until he died in 1996.

    There are plenty of gags that work well such as the string of jobs she attempts in the beginnings of the film, the computer with its quirky personality, the needle syringe scene which reminded me of something Jim Carrey did in Ace Ventura 2 and her comedic byplay with both Hui and Michael Lee. One of the funniest moments is with John Woo playing himself in the unemployment line. It both glorifies the director as well as denigrates him when Ricky Hui has a sarcastic comment about the quality of Woo’s films. The Chan Sing cameo is also funny and will be recognized by Hong Kong fanboys, ahem aficionados. You can also see that Woo’s film knowledge is definitely here. I spotted references to Spartacus, The Lady and the Tramp and Modern Times. Woo’s direction and command of the camera is quite good as well though sometimes the editing is erratic. Now if they only had a script. While I had some fun with this, I am glad Woo got out of comedy into “heroic bloodshed” action films.

    I have the older Deltamac/Fortune Star R0/NTSC release. The picture is decent though the English subtitles could easily be better. The most noticeable problem is the mix up of gender pronouns which are sometimes hilarious as well as some interesting misspellings like the company name Sanda instead of Zada. There are traditional and simplified Chinese subs as well. The audio tracks are Cantonese and Mandarin. There is an unsubtitled trailer as well. There is a newer release of the film from Joy Sales’s Legendary Collection (R0/NTSC) that appears to be OOP as well. I hope they fixed the English subtitle errors.

    For fans of John Woo: there are two book sources that were of great help in finding more information on this movie: John Woo Interviews (2005) edited by Robert K. Elder and John Woo: The Films (1999) by Kenneth E. Hall. Hall has the most intellectual analysis on the film that I have read even if I do not necessarily agree with all his summations. I highly recommend both.

    Links:
    HKMDB
    IMDB
    The Influence of Television on Film in the 1970s by Po Fung (pdf; translated; on different TVB Shows influences)
    Wiki on TVB Anniversary Awards
    My 8 Most Romantic Movies (February 23, 2011)
    Far East Films Review
    Hong Kong New Wave (1978-2000) By Botang Zhuo, Pak Tong Cheuk (Google book link on Lam Ah Chun)
    John Woo’s cameo (unsubtitled): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzpIgs0aizs

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