Issue #211           HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES                May 10th, 2004

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(1987; Golden Harvest/Golden Way Films/Paragon Films)

Cantonese: Yin chi kau
Mandarin: Yan zhi kou
Rouge Hook


RATING: 10/10


Jackie Chan produced this touching, beautifully composed drama, which won five HK Film Awards prizes, including Best Picture. In 1934, the dashing Chen Chen-pang (Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing) falls for cultured prostitute Fleur (Anita Mui Yim-fong) after hearing her sing Cantonese opera at a party. He pampers her with gifts and affection, and the two are soon deeply in love. At this point, the film shifts to 1987, with Fleur (looking unchanged after over half a century) arriving at a newspaper office one evening. She seeks to place a classified ad addressed to Chen-pang, asking for him to meet her at their usual place, but lacks the necessary money to pay for it. Classifieds editor Yuan Ting (Alex Man Chi-leung) is followed by Fleur for the rest of the night, with the woman constantly turning up in unexpected places. While he initially thinks that this demure lady in a flowered cheongsam is a harmless (if slightly creepy) lunatic, Ting soon realizes that she is actually a ghost. Fleur explains to him that, after she was rejected by Chen-pang's family, the two of them committed suicide with an overdose of opium and sleeping pills, planning to join together forever in Hell. However, she has been unable to find him and has returned to Earth two days before the 53rd. anniversary of their deaths. Pitying Fleur and her plight, Ting and his reporter girlfriend, Chu (Emily Chu Bo-yee), agree to take the spirit into their home and aid her in finding Chen-pang. Along the way, they find their faltering relationship regaining the strength and passion it had when they first started dating. When Chen-pang fails to show up for the appointed rendezvous, Ting and Chu learn something surprising about his fate.

Anita Mui Alex Man Emily Chu (center), Alex Man

Told without special FX of any kind, ROUGE is one of the most seductive films in memory, drawing the viewer into its spell from the opening image and maintaining that hold right through to the end. At the time of its production, Anita Mui was known in the pop music world for her flamboyance and ever changing persona and, in the movie world, for her brassy, independent characters. For ROUGE, she completely submerged herself in the role of a 1930s courtesan: unfailingly polite, timid, and willowy, with a hint of sadness and reservation in her eyes, even when smiling. While seemingly a one-note character, it is actually quite a difficult role, as Fleur's dispositions are as delicate as her demeanour. Much of the story's dramatic effect is drawn from the small hints of emotion in Mui's face (beautifully photographed in all manner of ways by ZU cinematographer, Bill Wong Chung-po) and the entire film employs this same subtlety, from the thoughtful, unaffected script (co-authored by novelist Lillian Lee Pik-wah, who would later write A TERRACOTTA WARRIOR and GREEN SNAKE) to Michael Lai Siu-tin's gentle, arresting score. Mui rightfully received the Best Actress awards in both HK and Taiwan, and her title song (heard during the finale) also won at the former ceremony. A story about the convergence of two very different eras in the history of Hong Kong and their contrasting outlooks on love and life, ROUGE is refined and gratifyingly genuine and this, coupled with its exquisite technical artistry, makes it one of the best films of the 1980s. In light of the tragic deaths of Cheung and Mui in 2003, the film cannot help but become an even more poignant experience. Irene Wan Pik-ha, Lau Kar-wing, Kara Hui Ying-hung, and Wong Yue also appear. In this instance, the word "hook" in the Chinese title actually means "case."

Leslie Cheung Anita Mui Anita Mui


While the presentation is perfectly watchable, a film this superbly designed really deserves a top flight transfer. Colors and contrasts are generally well-defined but the source material is mildly speckled. Both the Cantonese and Mandarin tracks are a bit distorted in spots and mild smearing can be detected once in a while. A trailer is the sole extra.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Deltamac. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC -- Region 0
  • Deltamac
  • Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Post-synced Cantonese and Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional & Simplified Chinese
  • 6 Chapters
  • 4:3 Letterbox (1.70:1)
  • 93 Minutes (at 25 frames-per-second)

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Australia: M 15+
  • Great Britain: 15
  • Hong Kong: IIA
  • Quebec: G
  • Singapore: PG (cut)
  • Contains substance abuse and mature themes


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful