j[ (1954)
Grand View Garden

Reviewed by: dleedlee
Date: 08/20/2004

This is a modern remake of the three hundred year old epic novel Dream of the Red Mansions. Grand View Garden is part 1, part 2 is The Tragic Death of Lam Doi-Yuk.

Briefly, the version of the novel I read spans five volumes, it’s the story of two families, Ka (‘false’) and Jiang (‘real’), predominantly women, matriarch, aunts, sisters, cousins, maids. I won’t pretend to know more than the superficial aspects of the novel, but I’ve heard there’s a saying that you don’t understand the novel until you’ve read it at least five times!

In this film, Lam Doi-Yuk, a poor country cousin comes to live with the wealthy Ka family. Doi-Yuk is sickly and morose most of the time. She and male cousin Bo-Yuk love each other, though Bo-Yuk is basically a rooster in the henhouse in the novel and not completely depicted as such here. His love and affection with his maid Ching Man is superficially covered. *spoiler* The film ends after the maid is cast out of the household and dies from grief but not before declaring her love to Bo-Yuk. Sun Ma Sze Tsang sings a length eulogy at her grave to prematurely end part 1.

Another core element of the novel, the money troubles of the Ka family, is somewhat addressed in the film.

Sun Ma Sze Tsang is suprisingly effective as Bo-Yuk and pairs well with Fong Yim Fun as Doi-Yuk. In the novel, Bo-Yuk is more effiminate, but Sun Ma does a nice take by playing more hesitant and indecisive than his normal film persona.

This is version is set in modern (1950’s) era. So instead of having poetry writing, painting contests and such they play badmington, cards, mahjong and Chinese checkers. The mansion in its modern guise is at times incredibly opulent. Later, though parts just look like typical sets. One thing I’ve noticed in these old ‘50s films is that they remind me a lot of the look of films from the US ‘30s. I don’t know if it’s because there’s that great a stylistic lag between the two countries or my own misreading of design cues.

I know I’ve done a disservice in trying to describe the novel but the video is even worse clocking in at eighty minutes and cutting one song. Though I only vaguely remember the novel, those who haven’t read it previously might find part 1 somewhat unfathomable and incomplete. I don’t think part 2 is even available on video.

Reviewer Score: 6