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November 2nd, 2000 Issue #24

Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.

Home In My Heart
(2000*): 6/10
 *Refers to the HK video release; Taiwan release date unknown.

Cover art courtesy Mei Ah.

Sing yu sam yuen


Xing yu xin yuan

Starry Words Heart Wishes

Hsu Chi (right) and Annie Wu Chen-chun (left). Image courtesy Mei Ah.

This Taiwanese production opens with an untranslated Chinese language crawl for which Hong Kong Entertainment News In Review editor Sanney Leung has kindly provided the English equivalent:

"It was the darkest of times, it was the brightest of times. It was a time of pessimism, it was a time
of optimism. Above all, it was a time of glory and sacrifice. During this period of war, rebels fought for the basic respect of humanity, selflessly giving their precious lives. It was during this time when peace finally won out, in August 1945, that the war touched a small nunnery on China's Pacific shore. There, a tender romantic story emerged..."

Hsu Chi (left) and Annie Wu Chen-chun (right). Image courtesy Mei Ah.

Orphans Lai (Hsu Chi) and Chun (Annie Wu Chen-chun) have lived in a nunnery ever since childhood, when their families succumbed to disease. Now that they have grown up, the Mother Superior gives the mischievous pair the option to leave. Before they can decide, a group of lost Chinese soldiers arrive seeking aid. The Mother Superior agrees to hide them from the Japanese but Lai has a better plan: she and Chun know the countryside and volunteer to guide the men to their objective. Deciding that it is God's will, the Mother Superior reluctantly agrees. Exchanging their habits for uniforms, the girls lead the men through the countryside but their lack of combat experience alerts the enemy, leading to the death of a Chinese soldier. The group eventually comes upon the home of one of Lai's friends but the family has been massacred, their bodies hung out for all to see.

The Chinese captain orders that they be left there, so the Japanese will not know that they have passed through the area, but the grief stricken Lai sneaks away to cut them down and is promptly captured. The men rescue her and are able to complete their mission, returning Lai and Chun back home. However, Japanese troops soon overrun the nunnery and begin to execute the women, demanding to know the whereabouts of the enemy.

Image courtesy Mei Ah.

While unabashedly sentimental (there are two Mandarin renditions of “Amazing Grace”), the film usually manages to avoid the heavy-handed patriotism commonly displayed in older Taiwanese war films like THE 800 HEROES, THE WOMEN SOLDIERS, and THE WOMEN WARRIORS OF KINGMEN. Be that as it may, writer/director Yeh Hong-wei (IRON SISTER) is content to present the Japanese as the sort of mindless animals always seen in Chinese war movies, be they from Taiwan, HK, or China, and the script is familiar in both the best and worst senses. Too old-fashioned and deliberately paced to garner a theatrical release in Hong Kong, HOME IN MY HEART remains moderately worthwhile, thanks primarily to earnest performances, but those expecting it to do more than push the usual buttons will likely be less forgiving.

Hsu Chi. Image courtesy Mei Ah.

DVD Specs:

Mei Ah #DVD-319
Dolby Digital (2.1 and 5.1 options)
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
Optional subtitles in English and Chinese (Traditional and Simplified)
9 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Stills
Letterboxed (1.80:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
Category IIB (contains brief instances of bloody combat violence)
90 minutes

DVD menu courtesy Mei Ah.

The infamous "Mei Ah haze" is present here, diluting the blacks, but the picture is otherwise sharp and attractive. Unfortunately, the digital compression is problematic, resulting in noticeable smearing during some fast movements by the performers or the camera. The disc defaults to the Cantonese 5.1 track but the sync sound Mandarin versions are the better choice, even if they are a bit flat and scratchy. The 5.1 remixes do nothing but add an echo to the dialogue track and this is not the sort of movie that requires an aggressive mix anyway. A textless print was used for the transfer, so the opening and closing credits are all video generated (and run right over top of the mattes!). There are no extras or time functions.

Hsu Chi. Image courtesy Mei Ah.

Copyright © John Charles 2000. All Rights Reserved.

Hong Kong Digital is presented in association with Hong Kong Entertainment News In Review