Monday is Valentine's Day, and with the event gaining popularity among young couples in China, several movies targeting these audiences are scheduled to screen, including Eternal Moment, Somebody to Love, Yellow Rose, What Women Want and The Tourist.
Accompanying the trend for adapting popular TV series, such as My Own Swordsman and Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, Eternal Moment is another film version of the TV show of the same title. The series, about campus romances among university students, first showed 12 years ago and gained great popularity among youngsters as one of the first few romance series in China; the rest were mainly from South Korea or Japan in the 1990s.
With the same director and cast, the film version is not so much about giving an ending to the TV series but instead focuses on three different alternative stories of what two of the lovers, Yang Zheng (Li Yapeng) and Wen Hui (Xu Jinglei), might be like in 12 years. Each story happens in a different location: Beijing, Shanghai and Bordeaux.
"The Beijing part is a very surreal and bold with imaginary and dream-like special effects, the Shanghai one is about the struggle of the working class and [the part set in] Bordeaux is very exotic," said director Zhang Yibai at last week's press conference.
As opposed to conservative television scenes of holding hands and shy kisses, the film version includes sex scenes. "I don't think the scenes are erotic but more sad: two former lovers meet each other after 12 years, they have become old and vulnerable as time changes, and only their youthful memory reminds them of happiness and passion," leading actor Li Yapeng said. "The old lovers try to be as they were in old times, but they can't. It is the sad truth of life, " Zhang added.
Apart from A-list leading actors Li Yapeng and Xu Jinglei, the film boasts a theme song by pop icon Faye Wong, who hasn't had new song out for over a year. With leading actor Li Yapeng and Wong a married couple, the media stir should prove sufficient enough for their fans to want to see the film.
Although ostensibly targeting the couples audience, after the advanced screening in Beijing last week, the reaction suggested Eternal Moment might not be particularly suitable for lovers, especially married couples. With three possible stories about how to meet one's first love, "there are many scenes portraying how married life is dull and impassionate, [and] only first love is pure and nostalgic. It seems to encourage getting back with your old lover," 29-year-old white-collar viewer Li Yan told the Global Times.
However, others believe it goes deeper than a conventional love story, "Eternal Moment is not only a love story…it portrays how two old lovers are now, along with a few scenes when they are young [from the TV show] 12 years ago. The contrast touches the audience and tells them about life," film critic Hu Liang told the Global Times.
Hu was scathing of the lack of originality on offer at box offices. "Spring cinema is rather a quiet time period, but the Valentine slot is relatively busy. This year's Valentine cinema is more like repeating old stories, TV adaptation, TV show themes or remakes of Hollywood movies [such as What Women Want]…nothing fresh."
As of yesterday, romance film Somebody to Love is also in cinemas for Valentine couples. As the TV dating show becomes a social phenomenon in China, Somebody to Love tells the backstage story of just such a dating show, with a focus on contestants and the directors of the show - their daily lives, especially loves, and how they find their true partners eventually.
Directed by first-time director Zhou Nan, with a screenplay by well-known teen fiction writer Guo Jingming, and a cast consisting mainly of teen icons, such as Wang Bojie, Li Feier and He Jiong, the film is recommended for young lovers and dating show fans.
Apart from Eternal Moment and Somebody to Love, romance films Yellow Rose, What Women Want and The Tourist are also in cinema to offer more choices.