Yesterday Once More (HK - DVD)
Hong Kong megastars Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng have reunited with director Johnny To for the third time in this romantic comedy crim...
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It was bound to happen eventually. I knew that when I took this gig I’d have to face my critical inadequacies one of these days. Here I am, preparing a review for a film cemented pretty solidly in my least favourite genre - the dreaded romantic-comedy. I approached Yesterday Once More with much apprehension, and wouldn’t you know it, I actually wound up enjoying myself.
Andy Lau, and Sammi Cheng star as a married couple, who happen to be international super thieves. While dividing a particularly large score of diamonds, Cheng begins to playfully demand a larger cut of the loot. Lau plays along for a bit, before smiling and announcing she can take all of it, and that he is divorcing her. The announcement comes as a shock to Cheng, who assumes it is a joke. It is not and he leaves, smile still upon his face.
Fast-forward a few years, and Cheng’s latest suitor is proposing to her in a most grandiose fashion. She admits to him that she doesn’t love him, and adds that if he really wanted her to marry him, he’d offer her one of his mother’s many precious heirlooms. Cheng isn’t concerned with money, as being an international super thief affords her plenty, but she is still quite concerned with possessing trinkets that she cannot buy. The suitor, a consonant mama’s boy, convinces his mother to give up on priceless article of jewellery, but only if Cheng is willing to sign a post-marital contract with her son. To avoid this, and because she’s an incurable kleptomaniac, Cheng schemes to steal the piece while in transit.
However, when ex-husband Lau hears news of the engagement, he also begins plans to steal the piece. As are his reasons for the divorce, his reasons for this planned theft are somewhat mysterious. When he succeeds in his plan, Cheng immediately suspects him, and begins seeking him out. The two meet up and begin flirtatiously competing in everything, from additional burglaries, to mini-car chases, and gambling. In all events Lau seems to have the upper hand, and it becomes clear that he is pulling the strings in a greater master plan.
I won’t spoil the story anymore, as it takes some genuinely unexpected turns. Unlike most American rom-coms, which insult their audience’s intelligence by recycling the same plots and characters, Yesterday Once More actually has something to more to offer. I am not, as I’ve stated, exactly up on my Asian rom-coms, and have not seen this actor/actress/director’s other films ( Needing You and Love on a Diet), so I am unsure if this is a fluke or the norm. As I understand it, this film was not as popular as the gang’s other films with fans.
Yesterday Once More is similar in style and substance to John Woo’s Once a Thief (the original, not the made for TV knock-off) and McTiernan’s Thomas Crown Affair remake, but best encapsulates the buoyant charms of Alfred Hitchcock’s more light-hearted features. The characters constant flirting through alternative means is quite charming and creates a depth unheard of in most Hollywood fare. These are clever people the audience can respect and buy as genius thieves. Expressing love through competition isn’t a new concept, but is still effective and entertaining. Cute is the defining word for the majority of the film.
My only word of warning to genre fans is that Yesterday Once More's light-hearted tone does not extend throughout the entire length of the film. The last third comes at a little bit of a low blow. Normally surprising twists in the formula would be advisable, but here it feels a little out of place. The sudden tonal shift might be jarring to Western audiences. This is not to say that the surprises lessen the films impact, as they actually increase it, I’m just not sure that this is the direction most viewers would want the film to turn.
All around this is a good show, and I’m amazed at how much I liked it. I’d like to think my personal enjoyment is a pretty good gage of a rom-com’s overall worth. If it can melt this hardened horror geek’s heart, I can only imagine its effect on a more susceptible audience. The fact that the general consensus in the on-line community is that Yesterday Once More is one of the weaker entrees in director Johnny To’s discoriography speaks volumes for the guy. Suddenly I find the man’s films on my Netflix rental queue, and that’s the most shocking thing of all.
Yesterday Once More is presented in what seems to be 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. Even in this, nearly the widest of scopes, sometimes images appear slightly cropped. This could have been a conscious decision on the director’s part, but isn’t really in keeping with the film’s visual style, which is pretty traditionally centred and balanced. The colours are nice and reasonably bright, nicely representing the somewhat garish upper crust homes of the main characters. There is a slight problem with grain and artifacting, including a few track lines, but these are mostly ignorable. Occasionally, the picture becomes overly soft, verging on blurry in the middle of select shots, but again, these are minor quibbles.
Yesterday Once More has an absolutely fabulous upbeat, bebop score, and it sounds great on both the Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 tracks. The DTS track is generally louder and more bass heavy that the Dolby one, but this really isn’t a film that requires this kind of audio technology. I noticed very few directional effects, and the surround speakers went all but unused. Both 5.1 tracks actually sounded more like 2.0 tracks, but as I said, 5.1 surround is really unnecessary here. The musical score is truly fantastic and is instrumental (no pun intended) in creating the film’s playful, yet mature atmosphere.
This review concerns a bare-bones release. The only “extra feature” is the elongated (ten minute) trailer for the studio’s Infernal Affairs box set DVD release. I haven’t seen any of them yet, so I tried to not pay too close attention in the fear that certain plot points may have been spoiled if I had.
To reiterate: I did not think I’d like Yesterday Once More, yet I did. I may have approached it with low expectations, and that may have had an effect on my review, but I still stand by my recommendation. I’m not recommending anyone go out of their way to find this, but if you like foreign rom-coms, this is a flick for you.
You can buy this title for $5.99 from Yesasia.com.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Not suitable for children
Release Date: 1st December 2004
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: DTS 5.1 Cantonese , Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin
Subtitles: English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese
Easter Egg: No
Director: Johnny To
Cast: Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng
Length: 98 minutes
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