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Secret

Posted by martinteller on May 10, 2014

Piano prodigy Jay (“Xiao Lun” in the original Chinese, Jay Chou) has just transferred to a school with a prestigious music department.  Sky (“Qing Yi”, Kai-xuan Tseng) gives him the tour and seems to be smitten with him, but Jay is more interested in the captivating Rain (“Xiao Yu”, Gwei Lun-Mei), another student of piano.  The two have instant chemistry, and Jay is intrigued by Rain’s playful mysteriousness.  But jealousy over Sky’s attention forms a rift between them, and as Jay tries to win Rain back, he — with the help of his father (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) — discovers her unusual secret.

I can’t recall what compelled me to put this movie on my watchlist.  I suspect it was the participation of cinematographer Mark Ping-Bin Lee, whose stunning work with Hou Hsiao-hsien, Tran Anh Hung, Wong Kar-Wai and Jiang Wen has always left a strong impression.  And yes, the film looks fantastic.  The high romance of the story is complemented by lyrical shots and ecstatic swirling camera moves.  There’s also a fair bit of CGI which looks quite good more often than not.  And there are a few absolutely charming and delightful moments to behold.  Jay and Rain can be adorable together, and you want to root for them.  Also, the piano music — often highlighting Chopin — is terrific.

But man, is this movie an unwieldy mess otherwise.  Chou, a huge pop star who had previously starred in a couple of second-banana roles (Initial D and one of Zhang Yimou’s worst films, The Curse of the Golden Flower), makes his writing/directing debut here, and maybe he should stick to music.  Though it’s worth noting that besides the piano scenes, the score is overbearing and saccharine.  Chou’s acting is wooden and uninspired.  Gwei Lun-Mei manages to carry the couple, but even she has a stinker of a crying scene.  Wong does his best to bring some charm to his role, but it’s an uneven character that seems to have a different attitude in every scene.

I wish those were the only problems.  If you’ve heard anything about this movie, you’ve probably heard it has a twist.  Just knowing that one was coming made it fairly easy to guess.  To be fair, I was somewhat off in my prediction, but the essence of it was pretty much on target.  And it’s a dumb twist.  It’s just a silly construct, you can tell the whole movie was built around this plot device, to the detriment of the romance that ought to be the driving force.  The love story is occasionally sweet, but is largely constructed out of sappy clichés.  The twist also leaves a bunch of unanswered questions… the most troubling involving the school janitor “York” (I can’t figure out the actor who played him, but he deserves a punch in the face).  And then the climax is an absurd pile of contrivance for hokey dramatic effect.  Just… ugh.  I also have to say that I felt the middle of the film was rather sluggish.

This movie has a 7.7 rating on IMDb, and mostly positive reviews.  So I dunno, your mileage may vary.  All I can say is Carrie and I both thought it was pretty stupid, and the ending simply laughable.  Rating: Crap (38)

IMDb
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