Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Unpracticed Grace of Maggie Cheung

Maggie Cheung poses during a photocall at the 60th Cannes Film Festival on May 16. /REUTERS
It was the maverick Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle who said it is impossible to make Maggie Cheung look ugly on film. She doesn’t look too bad in the flesh either: wearing a loose T-shirt and a pair of jeans, Cheung appeared in Cannes as a juror for the International Film Festival, and patiently signed autographs for smitten reporters.

Before working as a regular with director Wong Kar-wai, Cheung consumed her talent as a sex symbol in movies like “Police Story,” and “The Romancing Star”, opposite Chow Yun Fat starred. But since appearing in “Cruel Winter Blues” in 1988, Cheung has had no more complaints about any lack of emotion. In "Ashes of Time (1994)", "In the Mood for Love (2000)" and "2046 (2004)" she has been spellbinding. Perhaps that is why Cheung without hesitation names Wong Kar-wai as her cinematic teacher. So is it cruel of year’s Cannes Film Festival to force her to judge her teacher’s work? Wong’s new film “My Blueberry Nights” opens this year’s festival.

A Chinese reporter posed the awkward question how she will judge Wong’s work. Cheung seemed to dodge it, saying while Wong’s film was certainly good, there would be other good ones too. Asked by what criteria she will judge films, she said there are simply good movies and bad movies for her. Analysis and calculation are the job of science, she said, and that is not for movies.

Her acting, too, doesn’t seem based on logic and rationality. Director Peter Chan, who worked with Cheung on the film “Comrades: Almost a Love Story (1996)” once compared the actress with Robert De Niro. He said that Cheung has no thoughts or theory about her job. De Niro, by contrast, thinks about his acting too much. He achieves successes, but it is acting, not the life of people in the movie. Chan said Cheung acts as if she was telling her own story, and concluded that the best actors are people who haven’t learned much. It may seem like a somewhat humiliating appraisal, but the comparison was spot-on.

Of course, everyone has their own great love on the silver screen as a consolation for the drudgery of real life. Cheung, who was born in 1964, isn’t getting any younger. But with the years have come a grace and dignity that are all her own.

(englishnews@chosun.com )

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