Fatal Love

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 11/07/2010
Summary: tragic love story

In an unusual turn of movie viewing desires, I recently began a personal retrospective of the late Leslie Cheung’s filmography. Fatal Love is one of those Hong Kong movies that was failed by its advertising campaign which made it appear to me to be just another sappy melodrama that they were cranking out during this late 80’s period. I knew some of director Leung Po-Chi earlier work [Hong Kong 1941, Banana Cop], but I wasn’t compelled to see this.

Fast forward 20 plus years, some things have a different appeal to me now; filtered through that peculiar prism of existence. Sappy melodramas make me cry; and I like that. I’ve come to appreciate the verve that Melvin Wong brings to many of his roles. His bad guy performance in Fatal Love is over the top enough to make me recommend this tragic love story. The movie has some very cool action sequences helmed by Philip Kwok who also co-stars as evil Melvin’s bodyguard.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: White Dragon
Date: 12/09/2005

Whilst driving home late one evening Chi Ken Wing, or “Chicken” Wing (Leslie Cheung) to his friends, happens across a mysterious, yet ethereal beauty (Cherie Chung). Initially offering her a lift, her presence is short-lived and he soon finds himself questioning if she were real or a wayward spirit. Attempts to trace the enigmatic ‘Cecilia’, so named for an item of personalised clothing she left behind, turn up loose ends and the high probability of a ghostly encounter. Urged to forget his experience by his workmates, Ann (Ann Bridgewater) and David (David Wu), Wing continues to fawn over his mystery woman until a chance encounter on a busy street provides the revelation that ‘Cecilia’ is indeed flesh and blood. But she also turns out to be the mistress of powerful social figure Sam Tsao (Melvin Wong), a possessive and violent mobster who shares a dark secret with his lover. Wing dogs Hung (who hides under the alias of ‘Cecilia’), pursuing her into a relationship though she is already spoken for, and their torrid affair may spell tragedy for them both.

Similarly beset by creative differences that marred Leung Po Chi’s experiences with Cinema City director Karl Maka on 1983’s “Esprit D’Amour” (where he was removed mid-production and replaced by Ringo Lam), “Fatal Love” marks the co-authorship of future “A Moment Of Romance” (1990) director Benny Chan. And like Chan’s first attributed directorial work, “Fatal Love” shares many of that later work’s themes, albeit in a gender-reversed fashion. Herein, it is the late Leslie Cheung that is the love-lorn protagonist and superstar Cherie Chung the object of his affections. Retrospectively, it’s not hard to see why either performer were held in such high regard and idolised in their day, as this film displays both of them at the height of their (late eighties) fame. The film looks and sounds gorgeous, thanks to the cinematography of luminaries Horace Wong, Peter Pau and Poon Hang Sang as well as catchy dance aesthetic of Violet Lam’s haunting score.

“Fatal Love” never fails to engage, as it shifts its narrative from a playful tale of burgeoning forbidden love and moves desperately and darkly into more violent and tragic themes. Indeed, proceedings are underscored with the threat of violence as well as the bleak inevitability of tackling insurmountable odds, yet come the denouement it ends up exactly where you expected it wouldn’t. A true gem of the so-called “Golden Era” of Hong Kong cinema, largely unsung and overlooked by modern viewers, and well recommended if director Chan’s later “A Moment Of Romance” holds any place in your heart. Though supervising director Leung received final billing, it’s not hard to see Chan’s imprint on this work and it stands as an impressive dry-run to his later Andy Lau opus.

Reviewer Score: 8