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Chinese Box

1998

R CC

Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons stars as John, a British journalist living in Honk Kong. John has fallen in love with Vivian, a bartender with a jaded past. Vivian is eager to secure her position in Hong Kong society and wants her successful boyfriend Chang to marry her. When Chang proves to be indecisive about their relationship, Vivian turns to John.

Starring:
Jeremy Irons, Li Gong
Runtime:
1 hour, 39 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Romance
Director Wayne Wang
Starring Jeremy Irons, Li Gong
Supporting actors Maggie Cheung, Michael Hui, Rubén Blades, Jared Harris, Chaplin Chang, Noel Rands, Emma Lucia, Ken Bennett, Russell Cawthorne, Emotion Cheung, Harvey Stockwin, Jonathan Midgley, Bruce Walker, Angelica Lofgren, Julian Chang, Rui Chao Jian, Sing Chau Wai, Hung Lu
Studio Lionsgate
MPAA rating R (Restricted)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

Other Formats

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I LOVE THIS MOVIE! Sorry, but I have to resort to caps to counter-act all these negative reviews. Wayne Wang is an underrated genius. Sure he's made his fair share of crapola (Maid in Manhattan?), but Joy Luck Club, Center of the World, Smoke, and Chinese Box are all high art as far as I'm concerned. To me this film is about the inability of a westerner to fully understand the east, and more specifically the changing but undying spirit of Hong Kong. Using the british withdrawl from Hong Kong as a backdrop for a story about a dying british man in love with an unattainable Hong Kong woman is an interesting irony by itself.

As far as Gong Li's character being a stereo-typical high-class asian prostitute, and that being a folly of Mr. Wang (as suggested by another review), I think something is being missed. The whole point of her character is that she represents that western (male) fantasty, and is therefore unattainable. Maggie Chueng is the other side of that coin. She is the REAL Hong Kong, although equally elusive. She even has her own "Jeremey Irons" (british boyfriend) that is to her unattainable. Get it?

The shots and camera work are unbelievable in this film. The atomosphere is %50 of it. It has an almost cyberpunk quality. The music, especially Dadawa, is awesome aswell. This is a multi-faceted work of art. By the way, the DVD has some great features!
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Format: VHS Tape
As with all true masterpieces, you either love or hate this film. I have read all of the reviews for this film on Amazon.com and IMDB (Internet Movie Database) and one thing stands out: All of the reviewers either pointed out what a piece of trash this movie was, or were totally and completely entralled with it's cinematographic spendor. I must confess that I fall into the latter category. I have watched literally thousands of movies in my life (average of 10 per week) and I have to admit that most of them have been forgotten. It is for movies like Chinese Box that I wade through the endless sea of mediocre and just plain pointless films, on the off chance that I will find a jewel in the rough. I feel that Chinese Box is one of the true jems, I would place it in my top 3 list. For those who have experienced the truly memorable experiences (both good and bad) that life can throw at those who REALLY think and care, this movie is for you ! It will dredge all of the past meloncholic feelings out of your subconscious mind and shatter your everyday demeanor. I found myself in tears at the beautiful conclusion of this film, something that only 1 other movie (Bladerunner) has ever been able to accomplish. I have never in my life viewed a motion picture that so perfectly captures the essence of the human condition. All in all, I would say that this is one of the few films I will ever watch again and again, and ever time that I view it will bring exquisite new meaning to this most meaningful piece of art. No, correct that, this MASTERPIECE of cinematography.
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Format: DVD
Somewhere I read--I don't even know if it was in relation to this movie--that if you've never loved a woman you couldn't have, you won't understand this movie. This is a more than reductive introduction. I can begin by saying that this is one of the most thoughful and intelligent movies about the new internationalism that I have seen, but that sounds like a blurb. Irons is a man whose unconsumatable love for his adopted Hong Kong is embodied in his love for Gong Li's character, just as gong Li's character suffers from a love of the west that cannot escape old collonial cliches of bondage and subordination. So that's a pretty concise summary of the "significance" of each character, so what? By using the romantic metaphor, Wang manages to peel away a layer from our true international obsessions (at the heart of which is possession) and gambits. There are no flattering portraits in this movie: the west tries to use Asia for a quick buck, while Asia tries to use the west for a type of legitimacy. Unfortunately, the actions of the west have estranged it from itself (Irons being estranged from his family), while the attempts to embrace the west isolate the Asian from Asia (Gong Li's inability to climb up the Hong Kong social register). This is just a scratch. 1000 words can't do this very well done movie (except for the strangely lo-tech computer graphics title sequence) justice. You have to think. The movie's there, but you have to think.
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Format: DVD
From the DVD cover: "Jeremy Irons stars as John, a British journalist living in Hong Kong. John has fallen in love with Vivian (Gong Li), a bartender with a jaded past. Vivian is eager to secure her position in Hong Kong society and wants her successful boyfriend Chang to marry her. When Chang proves to be indecisive about their relationship, Vivian turns to John. Giving into their feelings for a brief but passionate affair, they now face inevitable change and unexpected obstacles in this touching and compelling film."

Nothing else I have seen or read captures the poignant and slightly fevered atmosphere of Hong Kong in the months leading up to the 1997 handover. The relationship between John (Irons) and Vivian (Gong Li), and what we learn of Maggie Cheung's character's past relationship (?) with her schooldays English boyfriend, seem to mirror aspects of the political and cultural relationship between the British and Hong Kong Chinese. The ending is deeply moving.

This film is infinitely superior and almost entirely different in terms of plot, and indeed everything else, from Paul Theroux's disappointing novel, Kowloon Tong, that apparently inspired the makers of this film.
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