The Love Eterne

dir. Li Han-hsiang

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Renowned Hong Kong actress Ivy Ling Po became a star in this smash-hit Huangmei opera film based on the legend of the Butterfly Lovers, a whirlwind cross-dressing romance known as the "Romeo and Juliet of the East."

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Shaw Brothers' in-house epic specialist Li Han-hsiang had his greatest success with this Huangmei opera film based on the legend of the Butterfly Lovers, a whirlwind cross-dressing romance sometimes referred to as the "Romeo and Juliet of the East." A true "event" movie, The Love Eterne broke box-office records throughout Asia (especially in Taiwan, where it apparently was the first film to make the young Ang Lee cry), and unlike many of its creaky contemporaries stands up extremely well today: the songs are eminently hummable and the performances of the female leads Betty Loh and (especially) Ivy Ling Po are wonderfully balanced between classical theatre and modern gesture. In the distant past, young male scholar Liang Shan Bo (Po) bumps into the aristocratic Zhu Ying Tai (Loh) on her way to attend a male-only school disguised as a boy. They become unusually close and spend an idyllic three years studying together. When Zhu must leave the school, Liang becomes frantic, eventually learning her true identity and tracking her down ... but he may be too late to win her back. "The Chinese folk legend of the Butterfly Lovers may have been adapted countless times, but this sumptuous rendition — with its catchy tunes, poetic lyrics and eye-searing colour scheme — is hard to be surpassed either artistically or historically" (Edmund Lee, Time Out Hong Kong).

Print courtesy Celestial Pictures Ltd.