Monday, 6 July 2015

Jackie Chan in the 1980s - Miracles

Jackie Chan brings an intense, career-defining run to a close with Miracles, a light-hearted identity swapper about a naive mob boss who takes pity on a doddery rose seller. Since this is a film by fine, upstanding Hong Kong citizen Jackie Chan, the lead's brush with extralegal affairs is accidental and played for comedic effect.

Chan's character, Kuo Cheng-Wah, is made head of a crime family after the previous leader's death rattles are misinterpreted by the gangster's lieutenants as a plea to anoint Kuo. Since brothels and opium dens are alien to the scrupulous mainlander, Kuo has his men open a lavish night club instead. The Ritz set provides Chan the director with an opportunity to pursue his interest in leading ladies and complicated camera set-ups.

Miracles' most impressive section is a sequence charting the twin successes of The Ritz and Anita Mui's showgirl Yang Luming. Chan shoots his then-girlfriend in a series of sumptuous outfits singing Mandarin pop standard Rose, Rose, I Love You. Chan employs crane shots that dart around the club, dropping in with several interesting parties. Chan invests the frame with the same kinetic clip he brings to his action scenes.

The film then slips into a montage detailing Luming and Kuo's developing relationship, as well as a violent turf war with local toughs. Chan and editor Peter Cheung cut on drum beats, transitioning between Luming's increasingly moneyed performances and Tommy Guns being emptied. Besides an aside about a car bomb, Luming's singing is kept high in the mix, drowning out all on-screen sound.

Like Steven Spielberg before him, Chan puts his paramour front-and-centre, stopping the film dead to drink her in. Mui's incessant wardrobe changes might even be a conscious attempt to one-up Kate Capshaw's turn in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Mui's fleeting importance to an unfolding plot that is content to dully replay Frank Capra beats doesn't undermine the segment either. It's a pointed, personal digression, Chan seeking to capture a moment or feeling. In a career noted for a chasteness that, at times, borders on asexuality it's as close to romantic as the megastar-director has ever gotten.

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