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Flash Point's Fan Bing Bing stars in this ghostly Chinese love story. When Junchu s girlfriend, Manli, is killed in a car accident, her ghost is determined to be with him forever. However, Junchu is forced to marry another woman, Sansan. Unable to earn his love and affection, Sansan makes a pact with Manli s ghost, but as their love for Junchu clashes their agreement turns from friendship to terrifying vengeance. Reminiscent of the Alfred Hitchcock classic Rebecca but with a supernatural twist, Matrimony is a beautifully terrifying love story.
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The cinematography is brilliant, mesmerizing images that match the sound and story flawlessly. On a horror fan website, the question was raised: Does romance belong in horror?
Yes. Yes it does, and this is it. The cover art is deceiving, which is unfortunate. The film has a deep and abiding sense of loss and dread, loneliness and unfulfilled desire that surpasses most (if not all) romantic dramas and comedies. The film carries a deep, disturbing sense of longing, as if everyone in the film was a stalker of someone else.
The ending is, IMHO, superb, and did such a nice job of turning everything around and leaving everything open yet answered as to be the new personal yardstick of what I am looking for in a romance film.
If Safety Not Guaranteed can be considered a perfect sci-fi geek romantic comedy film (which IMHO, it is), then The Matrimony is the ultimate horror geek romantic drama.
If it gets better than this, I have yet to encounter it. Lovely film.
Sansan, Manli, and Junchu form an odd and tragic triangle. Despite his treatment toward her, Sansan genuinely loves Junchu; there's also more of a connection between them than Junchu realizes. For his part, Junchu seems to resent Sansan just for being alive; his entire existence without Manli is misery.
The two women couldn't be more different. Manli is accomplished, sophisticated, and vibrant--red is her color, and when she contacts Sansan, she literally descends to the frightened young woman. Sansan is timid, naïve, and demure. Even before Manli appears, Sansan is more like a ghost than the dead girl, whose presence is everywhere.
Both women seem concerned only about Junchu's happiness, and they form an almost sisterly bond. Manli coaches the innocent, yet slowly receptive, Sansan on how to be more appealing to Junchu--mainly, by being more like Manli. It seems to work: Junchu and Sansan grow closer, he begins opening up to her, and it looks like they might have a future. It never occurs to Sansan that his change of heart isn't because he feels warmer toward her, but toward a person she's pretending to be.
But Matrimony is a ghost story and, ostensibly, a horror movie; while there's been an eerie feel to it all along, at this point, Director Hua-Tao Teng decides to go for scares. It was inevitable, but, unfortunately, it feels more like an inevitability than a natural progression.
It's kind of a shame--the "horror" segments are the weakest parts of the film. Characters do things that make little sense and have little connection to what we'd seen before, and the whole thing, so spooky yet charming up to this point, starts to feel typical.
But the film does toss us a ringer at the end, an ambiguous but strangely satisfying little coda that suggests Teng might have been more interested in playing a metaphysical card than telling a love story or a ghost story all along.
The disc, from Tartan, is a decent affair. The 1080p image looks good, though there's intermittent print damage. It's nothing too distracting, just the occasional odd nick that was likely part of the source print. The transfer is otherwise quite nice; with deep blacks, solid colors, and a good amount of depth. Audio is an unexciting Dolby mix with a choice of 5.1 Surround or 2.0 Stereo. For supplements, we get interviews with the actors, director, writer, and executive producer, and trailers.
-Full review at dvdverdict.com
The film opens with a lady relating a drama in front of a microphone at a radio station (the time frame is supposedly the 1930s). The scene switches to downtown where Shen Junchu (Chinese heartthrob Leon Lai) waits one the street until he spies his beautiful girlfriend Xu Manli (the very beautiful Bingbing Fan) riding on her bicycle towards him. Obviously both are excited to see each other and Manli drives into traffic and is killed; the shocked Junchu drops the little gift he had for Manli - an engagement ring. In the next scene we find the hardened sad Junchu in his home, having been forced by his mother Rong Ma (Songzi Xu) to marry the girl Sansan (Rene Liu) to assuage his devastation over his loss of Manli: Juncho merely tolerates Sansan and forbids her to enter the attic where he has stored all of Manli's earthly belongings. In her despair Sansan finds a key to the attic, enters it and discovers the ghost of Manli. A pact is made whereby Manli will assume the body of Sansan. From this point on the story develops as a clash between Junchu gradually accepting Sansan and slowly the ghost of Manli reveals herself and now in the corporal status of Sansun she appears to Juncho - but is it too late, and how will the transfigured ghost of Manli secure her position in Junchu's life? The ending is very smart and reminds the view of the old Guy de Maupassant short stories, known for their unique surprise endings.
The story is told with gothic finesse accompanied by a delicate musical score by Sin-yun Lee and Norman Orenstein. The acting is splendid and the special effects (the smoky apparition of the ghost of Manli is beautifully managed) are first class. This is a film rich in cinematic creativity and a story that is just off-kilter enough to be a frightening ghost tale without the excesses that we have grown used to seeing in recent horror films. Highly Recommended at 4.5 stars. Grady Harp, July 11
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A tragedy of lost love is creatively interwoven throughout this suspenseful and chilling ghost story.
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