[36HKIFF] The Love Letter (1999) – USA

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@ 36th Hong Kong International Film Festival

Love Letter: Dearest, Do you know how much in love with you I am? Did I trip? Did I stumble – lose my balance, graze my knee, graze my heart? I know I’m in love when I see you. I know when I long to see you, I’m on fire. Not a muscle has moved. Leaves hang unruffled by any breeze. The air is still. I have fallen in love without taking a step. You are all wrong for me and I know it, but I can no longer care for my thoughts unless they are thoughts of you. When I am close to you, I feel your hair brush my cheek when it does not. I look away from you sometimes, then I look back. When I tie my shoes, when I peel an orange, when I drive my car, when I lie down each night without you, I remain, Yours”

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Peter Chan’s first venture into Hollywood was a massive cultural barrier. Not unlike, Wong Kar Wai’s poorly executed, but well meaning “My Blueberry Night”, the premise seems very much Korean and the idea of a love letter creating multiple opportunities of love is more corny and cheesy than believable. Seriously if you see an untitled love letter randomly on a table at someone’s else home, it is very likely that you will take it seriously to heart and take it as a piece of salt instead. The answer is clear and the whole idea is flawed from the beginning. Here is how Chan works his magic on the audience and trick us to believe and takes us along the ride in a somewhat light hearted and slightly heart-warming view of nothing else than love.

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In one of Kate Capshaw’s final on-screen display, she is ably casted as a single middle aged woman trying to find love again despite the odds. In fact the film would not have been watchable if not for Capshaw’s performance and Chan’s persistent style of direction. I have always called Chan a romantic director as he goes for the depth of characters and their stories in unprecedented details. Unfortunately, in this film, Chan is clearly lost in translation and it’s a definite shame.
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All in all, like most Asian directors cutting it out in the golden mountain of Hollywood, Chan is unable to replicate his best works. No matter how you see this film from whatever angle, for a Hollywood movie it is just too corny to connect with the Western audience and for the Asian audience we have seen too many Comrades, Alan and Eric and countless better cinematic experience. Still, Chan did not fully fail as some fun can still be had, except by his standards, this is an epic fail by all proportions….

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Neo rates it 5.5/10

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