Hong Kong showbiz superstar Anita Mui’s Splashy biopic looks great but lacks a bit of soul


The short life and successful career of the Hong Kong singer, actress and social activist Anita Mui is celebrated in the mediocre biopic “Anita,” starring 31-year-old model Louise Wong in her film debut. This richly decorated and lushly filmed portrait reflects the look and electric vibe of Hong Kong’s entertainment industry during the heyday of the 1980s and 1990s, but only in spurts captures the sassy energy and l fearless spirit that made Mui a beloved figure who became the “Virgin of the East” and the “Girl of Hong Kong.” Archival footage of Mui scattered throughout the film highlights the difference.

“Anita” joins a long list of productions on Mui (Miu Yim-fong), who died of cervical cancer in December 2003 at the age of 40. Among these are the long-running Chinese television series “Anita Mui Fei” (2007) and “Dearest Anita” (2019), a factual drama inspired by members of the online fan club Mui Nation. This big-budget production is sure to become the most widely released of all Anita Mui-inspired screen projects. Despite its flaws, the first solo feature film by the action filmmaker Longman Leung (the “Cold War” franchise)

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Taking a page from many musical biographies, “Anita” begins with the doomed star about to take the stage for the last time. Bravely holding it all together and wearing a gorgeous wedding dress created by longtime stylist and mentor Eddie Lau (Louis Koo), Mui (Wong) said, “I’ll miss this.” Moments after being taken on stage on a hydraulic platform and greeted by her adoring audience, the story abruptly goes back in time. This proven technical work works like a charm. Many viewers are likely to get goosebumps and this doesn’t go too far to suggest that some of Mui’s most avid fans may be reduced to tears even at this early stage.

The film’s high energy level continued in flashbacks until 1969, when Anita, 6, and her sister Ann, 10, hit the stage as the singing duo “Yee-yee and Yee- n / A”. It’s wonderful to watch the talented girls mingle with eccentric performers backstage before wowing audiences at places like the famous Lai Chi Kok Amusement Park, which hosted Cantonese Opera and provided a platform to many aspiring pop stars. Here we briefly see Adam Cheng (Carlos Chan), whose pleasurable ability to sing in Japanese, English, and Mandarin as well is noted by the quick-witted young Anita.

With production designer Pater Wong, DP Anthony Pun and costume designer Dora Ng bringing their A game to this company, “Anita” looks great as she rocked in 1982. Mui’s flash to stardom began with the sister Ann (Fish Liew) who graciously withdraws for Mui to enter on a quest for talent as a solo artist. After beating thousands of hopes, Mui wins the grand prize of a recording contract with the successful Cantopop Capital Management factory. Director Leung and Jack Ng’s screenplay (“Cold War II”) portrays Mui as an intelligent and fiercely determined cookie who listens to the good advice of record producer M. So (Lan Ka-tung), his wise right-hand man Florence (Marion Yeung) and stylist Eddie Lau before gaining the confidence to go out and do things his way with songs like “Bad Girl,” which caused a hustle and bustle in 1985 with its cheeky lyrics about female sexual desire. .

The story continues to bounce back well as Mui tops the charts, winning acting awards in high-profile films such as Stanley Kwan’s “Red” (1987) and becoming the dear friend and confidant of Leslie Cheung (Terrance Lau), the legendary music and film superstar. whose tragic suicide preceded Mui’s death by 10 months.

Things are going well as the tempo increases, but aside from the touching description of Mui’s close bond with Ann, who died of cervical cancer in 2000, there isn’t much of an emotional spark in it. Mui’s personal affairs. Featured as a lonely soul unable to find lasting love, Mui first drifts through a doomed relationship with Japanese singer Yuki Godo, a fictitious name given to a character based on Kondo Masahiko and played by Ayumu Nakajima. . She later spends uneventful time in Thailand with the bland Ben (Tony Yang). It also seems odd that the intimate and confident conversations between Leslie Cheung and Mui never ventured into the realm of Cheung’s sexuality, which he spoke about publicly in the 1990s.

Frequent use of stock footage helps and hinders both. It’s great to see clips of Mui getting into showmanship and charity work, but the intoxicating zeal and energy of those real-life moments rarely shows through in the dramatization. Wong, who was cast for the role after a three-year search and was only publicly revealed to star a few months ago, looks a lot like Mui and does quite well in the sections describing Mui’s dizzying rise. towards fame. But her performance, directed by Leung from a storyline respectful and protective of her subject, is too often held up when the moment calls for the kind of brash, brave and raw emotion for which Mui was famous and loved.

Love for the film is never questioned at a time when anything seemed possible in Hong Kong and artists such as Mui and Cheung inspired fans by speaking out and proudly standing up for what they believed in. The film can’t help but match the sadness of Mui’s passing with a deep sense of heart and soul loss for where this Hong Kong girl lived.

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