The Phantom Lover 夜半歌聲 (1995) – Hong Kong

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 18th April 2013

Directed by: Ronny Yu
Starring: Leslie Cheung, Jacklyn Wu Chien-lien

Reviewed as part of HK Neo Reviews – 10 year resemblance of the late Leslie Cheung.

Released across Asia and the world on DVD. Support the site by buying DVD or Blu-ray from our HK Neo Distribution Ebay Store

“THE PHANTOM LOVER” may come with plenty of reputation, being named as the “PHANTOM OF OPERA” of the east, boasting director Ronny Yu at the heights of his powers, Jacklyn Wu Chien-lien fresh off the “A MOMENT FOR ROMANCE” franchise and quite simply Leslie Cheung. One would undoubtedly assume an instant classic, but the result is far from the case. There are plenty of moments where the film could have been great, but Yu never allows the film to focus on more important issues on hand, by wrongly giving a batch of screen time to the uncharismatic mainland lead actor Lei Huang.

Lei Huang constantly tries to apt Leslie Cheung’s infamous air of coolness and trademark smile, but has zero screen presence and not to mention some highly questionable acting chops. With Leslie Cheung frequently regulated to the background and resorted to flashbacks, the film ultimately suffers from having a core and not to mention a frantic finish that neither make sense or come to a workable solution. Jacklyn Wu Chien-lien is largely wasted in a role where she simply screams, cry and beg for love. Wu is an expert in playing these type of submissive lover role, but she too seem out of place. While the star of the show, Cheung tries hard in his disjointed screen-time with mixed effect.

All in all, “THE PHANTOM LOVER” could easily have been a cinematic classic, instead director Yu fails to focus the film on far more important things, namely the central doomed love affair and the rather lack of Cheung and Wu. Still, this film is far from being a bad film, but it is certainly one that should have been a lot longer, better focus and core. The result is a breezy, but irrelevant 90 minutes, making it incredibly difficult to stand alongside many of 90’s Leslie Cheung classics. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 6/10

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