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姑娘十八一朵花 (1966)
Girls Are Flowers

Reviewed by: duriandave
Date: 07/20/2005

Girls Are Flowers was Connie Chan’s breakthrough as a teen idol, and the film’s success launched the youth musical genre in Cantonese cinema during the late sixties. Mandarin cinema had already made youth musicals during the late fifties, starting with Grace Chang’s big splash in Mambo Girl, but by the mid-sixties the musicals being made were limited to huang mei operas and the somewhat stodgy songfests starring the (by that time) matronly Lin Dai.

The time was ripe for the rebirth of the youth musical. Connie Chan was just as wholesome and spirited as Grace Chang and even more the girl-next-door. Grace could certainly play the role, but her Western classical vocal training and skill in dancing the mambo and cha cha always gave her an air of cosmopolitan distinction. Connie, on the other hand, was much more down to earth. She was the idol of factory girls, the masses of young women who were entering Hong Kong’s booming manufacturing industries. As one critic nicely put it, it seemed as if Connie sprung forth onto the screen straight from the audience. Indeed, when Connie and Nancy Sit dance together in Girls Are Flowers they seem less like movie stars and more like one’s sister and her friend goofing around, exuberantly inventing routines. The songs sung by Connie (solo or in duet with Lui Kei and Nancy Sit) became some of her most cherished hits and are best described as proto-Cantopop retaining the strong influence of Cantonese opera.

The film itself is a standard rich boy/poor girl love story, but what makes it fresh and appealing is its youthful energy. This manifests most memorably in a swimming pool contest where the young characters try to balance on small inflatable rafts while knocking down their opponents with a giant padded baton. Another memorable scene illustrates one more difference between Connie Chan and Grace Chang. When a drunken Lui Kei starts beating up his friend after he wrongly suspects him of having an affair with Connie, she breaks up the fight by flipping him to the ground. While this is unusual for your typical romantic heroine, it was nothing extraordinary for Connie who grew up acting in swordplay movies, frequently in male roles. Scenes like this and the spunky charm of both Connie Chan and Nancy Sit make Girls Are Flowers a fabulously fun film.

Reviewer Score: 9