In Pale Passion, a man turns obsessive after his love is spurned. Throw in spousal abuse, wife cheating and adultery, as if this familial brew is not heady enough. Stephen Tan reviews.

THE ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW

Director Chin Ping-hsing's 1984 movie, Pale Passion, has a rather cryptic title, and it would have made more sense if it carried a direct translation of its Chinese title - "I Am Crazy For You" - for it is a film about an obsession with tragic consequences.

Pale Passion opens with a sex scene and, once again, latecomers would have missed an important plot point. While there is a certain amount of passion in the love-making, the scene is judiciously photographed with no revealing shots of crotch, breasts or buttocks - unlike the more lurid Sinful Adulteress (1973). This is where Pale Passion shares a similarity with Clifford Choi's Hong Kong Hong Kong (1983). Both films have an inherent sexual tension that is keenly felt but the sex is never played up.

After one of their sexual encounters, salesgirl Chiang Li-ping announces to oddjobsman Ngaai Dik that she wants to break off their relationship as it is too stressful for her. The couple is on the brink of getting married and a confused Ngaai does not understand the reason nor does he want the relationship to end. He consistently calls her at work and barges into her home one night while drunk. After sobering up, Ngaai even chops off one of his fingers as a profession of his love. Chiang relents and decides to marry Ngaai.

At work, Ngaai shows a jealous streak when he spots Chiang and her boss together. Returning home one night, Chiang finds Ngaai and his friends having steamboat in their bedroom and throws them out. However, Ngaai retaliates by hitting Chiang and punching her in the stomach thus causing Chiang to lose their baby (though at this point, Ngaai is not aware of the pregnancy). Chiang then leaves.

When Chiang does not return to their apartment, Ngaai gets despondent. To cheer him up, Ngaai's friends take him to a bar where he meets mamasan Elaine Chin Yen-ling. After a night of sex, the two hook up and eventually get married. One day, Ngaai runs into Chiang, who is now living with a doctor, and realises he still has strong feelings for her. He continues to harass and pester her, eventually ending up in her apartment. In the meantime, Chin has been following Ngaai to see what he has been up to.

Despite the film's enticing title, Pale Passion looks like another one of Shaw Brothers' attempt to cash in on the then-popular Hong Kong New Wave scene. (The other was Hong Kong, Hong Kong). What marks this as a Shaw movie is the crisp cinematography but there are some "art" shots that underline the film's New Wave aspirations - such as a still shot of a mahjong table after the game is over or a shot of the wistful Chiang looking at a mother and her child in the market.

The full extent of Chiang's frustration with her relationship with Ngaai is never explained in the film but jealousy, obsession, adultery, cheating and spousal abuse are clearly highlighted. Thanks to a fairly even-handed approach, Pale Passion isn't melodramatic and stands up credibly next to Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

Overall, the film does not come across stagey and the acting is deadly serious. While Chiang has an austere look, she does display a varied acting range in the film. Hence, it came as no surprise that she was nominated for a Best New Actress award at the 4th Hong Kong Film Awards 1984 - she eventually lost out to Josephine Koo who acted in Yim Ho's Homecoming.

Note: This movie is only reissued on VCD and is not available in $ingapore.

+ + + + +

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