ein_myria: (bando)
[personal profile] ein_myria
Saw "Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame" (狄仁杰之通天帝国) at the cinema tonight. It's basically a mystery set during fantastical Tang dynasty era, where China was at the height of its cultural and political eminence.

Here's a trailer with English subs...



Synopsis: When several officials internally combust under highly mysterious circumstances, Empress-incumbent Wu Zetian summons Detective Dee from his imprisonment to investigate. As she doesn't trust him (he spoke against her 8 years ago), she sends along her right hand, Shangguan Jing'er, to accompany him on his task.

If anybody was planning on watching it, I read some heavy duty femslash subtext action going on between Wu Zetian and her favorite courtier Shangguan Jing'er (she's the one who uses the whip in the trailer; there was a face caress that just lingered and some other stuff that happened that just made me go, "that's sooo gay." There were some pretty strange cut scenes though--makes me wonder if the version I watched was censored...

Overall, the movie had pretty high production values, what with several famous HK actors on the roll-call, top-notch wire-action sequences, and a B+ grade mystery that didn't give much away until the climax scene. The thinly veiled political message was a bit lame, but other than that, thought it was a fun kungfu movie.

Update (21/11/10): I just screencapped 2 of the show's scenes for their possible femslash subtext. Warning: spoilers below!


Scene 1
We meet the characters for the very first time in the royal palace. Shangguan Jing'er is serving her royal highness (HRH) dinner. HRH seems distracted with serious matters of state and it takes a bit for Shangguan Jing'er to gain her attention.
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Scene 2
Shangguan Jing'er is hurt by assassins sent by Wu Zetian herself because she knows far too much. With the help of Detective Dee she manages to get back to the palace and appears before HRH one more time...
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Wu Ze Tian says yes, but...
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Notice how they are being surrounded by all her courtiers and lady-in-waiting. This is NOT a private room somewhere. I thought to myself, 'this is a really epic and romantic dying scene between two ambiguously gay people.' I looked around the movie theatre and it seemed that no one seemed to notice. Is it just me???

Update: For those who have yet to see Carina Lau's work (she plays Wu Zetian in this movie), gonz reminded me that Carina Lau also played a lesbian in a pretty good film called "Intimates" / "Ji Sor" (1997). That one is much more epic on the LGBT movie scale since it 1) actually had a beautifully written plot and 2) actually addressed the lesbian plotline. Great acting all around. If you've seen Carina Lau in that, you'll think that the scenes in this movie are even gayer than before! LOL

Update 7/6/11 - Further reading: Judge Dee. :)

Date: 2010-10-14 08:30 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
lol i was just wondering if anyone else spot the femslash undertone in the movie, cause i thought i may just over thinking it. The scene towards the end of the movie makes me wonder who Jing'er was talking about. Thanks for the info that Carina Lau had played a lesbian role before, gonna look it up.

detective dee - jing er and the empress

Date: 2012-04-26 12:10 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I don't think you are over-thinking the romantic element between Jing er and the Empress at all. Jing er is referenced by other characters as, in translation, "the Empress' favorite" and the "Empress' bitch." I don't know Mandarin well enough to know what connotations the words they were translated from have. Also, in the almost sex scene with Dee, he tells Jing er not to force herself to have sex with him. Their dialogue seems to have different layers of meaning, but one I got from it was that she may not be inclined to have sex with a man. He also mentions that although she may feel she was required to sleep with him that doing so would actually make the Empress jealous and suspicious of Jing er - which I read as a hint to their relationship.

The first time we see the Empress and Jing er together they are in full armor (Jing er's first act is to protect the Empress) and throughout, except in the "private" dinner scene with the Empress and when she dies Jing er is pretty butch and in the historical context androgynous.

Can't just be my interpretation either because the film's creators chose to dress her in masculine fashion (except in the dinner scene w/the Empress in her inner chambers and when she is set to seduce Dee). The movie also has a very strong feminist theme.

The Empress says repeatedly that what she aspires to is unprecedented for a woman and that the obstacles she faces are because of sex discrimination. Her right hand "man" is a woman and given the setting it would be unlikely that she could have an intimate relationship with a man - her choices for love and sharing her bed (though the film doesn't go there) would have to be female.

At the end Jing er chooses to be sent back to die in the Empress' arms. If she were just a lackey who failed she might have been afraid to go back, but their relationship is deeper than that.

Date: 2010-11-21 08:22 pm (UTC)
leavethesky: (pepa is sad)
From: [personal profile] leavethesky
Ack! Jil Sor is virtually non-existant in the U.S.!! Want! It'll take Detective Dee ten years to make it to this tiny college town, not to mention netflix. *cries*

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