Girl with the Diamond Slipper (1985)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-05-07
“Girl with the Diamond Slipper” is early Wong Jing, early Maggie Cheung and late Shaw Brothers. Maggie is adorable—she still had chipmunk cheeks in 1985. Wong is not annoying as an actor and when in the director’s chair he keeps things movie although the script he supplied was hardly worth the effort.

Some auteur filmmakers who appear onscreen have very limited roles—John Sayles who is an extraordinarily talented American independent filmmaker generally gives himself a character that doesn’t change at all and that he doesn’t have to put much time and effort into. Examples are the deranged Hardshell Preacher in “Matewan” or as the sportswriter Ring Lardner in “Eight Men Out”. Clint Eastwood, in contrast, may star in a movie that he directs such as “Million Dollar Baby” or “The Unforgiven”. Francois Truffaut, possibly the most autuerish of them all, has written and directed movies in which he has starred and others in which he had only a cameo. The amount of screen time a director gives himself doesn’t seem to have any direct correlation with the quality of the movie—at least for me. I think that Sayles has done some of the very best work in recent American film and I am not a fan of Eastwood. Truffaut has managed to direct, write and star in some masterpieces: “Day for Night”, “The Wild Child” and at least one that was unwatchable, “The Green Room” even though his costar was the incandescent Nathalie Baye.

Wong Jing’s has a lead role in “Girl with the Diamond Slipper” and his direction is truly minimalist. The actors hit their marks and say their lines; the mise-en-scene is so unobtrusive that it is barely there; no discernable style intrudes, and thematic considerations aren’t an issue. It could appear on a list of movies that directed themselves.

There are two terrific scenes in this movie. The first is an audition for Cheung Man Ju (played, of course, by Cheung Man-Yuk) in which an overbearing and aggressive casting director barks commands in quick succession while the actress hits poses and mugs in an effort to express what she think he wants. It is a funny and moving scene as Maggie tries to imitate a woman who catches sight of her lover for the first time in quite a while then finds that his father insists he leave for college so they will be separated once again. The character she is playing becomes a bar girl, is propositioned by a customer and she decides to sleep with him because she needs the money. The casting director tells her to cry and to then to act emotional, innocent, inducing, angry and melancholic in quick succession. She doesn’t have time to fully register one look before she has to do the next one. Following this, things got even crazier as she was told to show someone who is mindlessly sexy, innocent yet seductive and my favorite painfully lascivious.

This scene is intriguing because it mirrors the way the Maggie Cheung and other Hong Kong actresses learned how to act. Place high in the Miss Hong Kong, Miss Malaysia or other beauty pageant, get signed to a contract at TVB or Shaw Brothers on one day and be given a script and blocking instructions the next. They learned to act in front of the camera by acting in front of the camera, much the same way that actors learned when narrative film first began and then a different group had to do it all over again when sound arrived. It is clear that while Cheung Man Ju has a narrow range of expressions to use, the same is true of Maggie in her fifth film. The score during this scene further pointed up its absurdity—what sounded like several bars from “Swan Lake” segued into the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The music was strangely out of place and almost disorienting, much like the effect we expect the scene to have on Maggie.

There is a lot of very good stunt work such high falls shown in one shot and men being thrown into walls then dropping straight to the floor. There are also some very brutal and enthusiastic fights involving Johnny Wang Lung-Wei and Poon Jan-Wai on one side (the bad guys) and Charlie Cho Cha-Lee with the not very helpful assistance of Wong Jing and Nat Chan Pak-Cheung.

Recommended but not very highly although Maggie Cheung fans should add a point
Reviewer Score: 6