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  • Taiwanese director Yang Ya-che's third feature, THE BOLD, THE CORRUPT AND THE BEAUTIFUL is the recipient of BEST FEATURE FILM in the 54th Golden Horse Awards, also winning BEST LEADING ACTRESS for Hong Kong veteran Kara Hui and BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS for a 14-year-old ingénue Vicky Chen.

    Opening with a present-day frame story segueing into the live TV show of Smile Folk Song Group - whose operatic narration punctuates the narrative with a distinct tang of rustic locality against its Stygian, chroma-keyed settings - the story spirits viewers away to presumably the late 90s, signposted by the brick-size cellular phone archetype, and chronologically unfolds the intricate intrigue mastered by Madame Tang (Hui), an antiquity-dealer who brokers a lucrative real estate transaction for high-flying personages (Senator, Speaker and County Mayer of that ilk), where backstabbing, double-crossing and blatant murder crop up down the line, all aiming for one ulterior motive.

    It is a smorgasbord of women's gamesmanship first and foremost, Madame Tang, flanked by her two daughters Ning (Wu Ke-xi) and Chen (Vicky Chen), the former, flirtatious, amoral and self-destructive, whereas the latter, meek, diffident and misty-eyed (and their gaping age difference hints at a not-too-well-kept family secret), mostly mingles with the wives of those involved, carefully takes stock of each other's profiteering moves and oils the wheels by wheedling, prevaricating and manipulating, without ruffling the superficial harmony.

    However, the ramifications of an ordered family massacre insidiously affects the two-fold (yet three-layered) mother-daughter correlations, when Ning finds out that she is given the short end of the stick to cover the goings-on, it puts the kibosh on their triangular co-existence, and it is up to Chen to choose her side, wisely she chooses to stay, but the belatedly consummation of her secret teenage crush, after she collectedly watches her rival exhale her last breath, boomerangs badly on her and costs her a limb but she survives, the rude awakening hardens her, years later, a stony-faced adult Chen (Alice Ko) will deny Madame Tang her final plug-pulling wish in extremis, a red apple recurs to conform audience's shattered trepidation that the bad seed is here to stay.

    One might find the film misogynistic, no sympathy can no easily drawn from its female characters (although male counterparts are no less sympathetic, at least they are all shoved into periphery), Yang plumbs deep into the psyche of a ruthless matriarch who reckons everyone else as a cog in the wheel, including her own offspring, and rams home that she is not an anomaly, like a cancer, consanguineous vileness rubs off on those impressionable ones (gilded youth, in this case) with karma awaits the originator like an ouroboros.

    Yang's cynical disposition certainly can not be everyone's cuppa, and for subtitle-readers, the plot is too serpentine and evasive by half to suss out the whole shebang on a first-viewing, but the film has its ineffable allure built from its visual sublimity (for its wondrously captured Far East ethos, not least the posthumous marriage charade and all the aural paraphernalia) and emanated from three key performer's concerted brilliance that can put the Yang's film on the map.

    Kara Hui (presently has amassed 4 acting trophies in the Hong Kong Film Awards, three for leading and one for supporting, only trails Maggie Cheung's record-setting 5 wins in the leading category), has become an unexpectedly inspiring ageism-defying exemplar in carving out a terrifically kaleidoscopic long career which she begins as a martial arts starlet four decades earlier. In portraying Madame Tang, she graciously alternates between Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese, coaxing every line and expression with either studiously calculated cadence or pitch-perfect moderation, exuding an indecipherable mystique that is egregiously inviting.

    A fresh-faced Vicky Chen acquits herself amazingly in conveying Chen's precocious dichotomy that dissembles her vindictive incentive underneath her deceptive sniveling, quivering, bashful facade, subtlety often materializes on her inscrutable visage in close-ups, a sapling aiming for the next big thing? for sure she shows great promise but I don't want to jinx it.

    Nonetheless, the one unsung trouper here is Wu Ke-xi (whose lack of awards traction could be attributed to the indecisive category placement, as I see it, supporting is more apposite), Ning is a damaged good who can never live down the stigma stung her years earlier, yet Wu emits a particularly affecting frisson of vulnerability and intensity that we hardly can find elsewhere, her angular lineaments might not be prepossessing in a conventional way, but she competently attests that she is a force 0f raw emotion, with incredible range and conviction.

    Eventually, it is difficult to pin down any of the triumvirate with just one of the titular adjectives: bold, corrupted, beautiful, each word can be ascribed to them in different phases, perhaps, they are legitimate for every and each flawed, complex human being, residing in an imperfect world where there is no right or wrong, just win or lose, if this is a noxious canker, Yang Ya-che for sure pulls no punches to gut it open and let its pus speak for itself.
  • I'm afraid this movie is too China, too post-Japan Tawanese, too true for those distant hidden society not replaced by modern society (which frankly is the western way). It looks absurd, but too true.... Can't say we are lucky or unlucky to live by the international standard now. When watching it, i feel both familiar and strange, well we are going to lose a lot of Chinese style scheme (and bond), good? bad? Can't say. So, the typical 'I'm doing this for your sake' appeared again! how many Chinese family is using this to kill their children?
  • anulzemag21 March 2020
    I do not recall having seen a Taiwanese movie before, very nice and well crafted movie.
  • Exquisite scenes, characters, traditional Chinese clothes and robes, distorted interpersonal and emotional.Three generations of women subtle feelings, the younger daughter is a spectator, but also ambiguous feelings incarnate, desire evil thoughts reincarnation, a bit of atonement.I really like to watch the scenes between women. They can be as tough as the godfather, or as tender as carol, whether it's family love or love or friendship.
  • "The Bold, the Corrupt, and the Beautiful" depicts three shrewd women, unfolds a murder case and reveals dark politics. The Taiwanese writer-director Ya-che Yang is surprisingly ambitious as he tries to go deep into the discussion about humanity in a cynical way. And he succeeds in the sense that he won the Best Picture in the Golden Horse. From a more critical point of view, the film lacks some basic elements in a mystery thriller and does not deserves the award. The performance of the Hong Kong veteran Kara Hui is stunning and proves that she is one of the best Chinese actresses of all time.
  • It is not your usual movie, I had to watch twice to understand the plot. Maybe, I'm slow, but there were so many going on. But once you get it, you will find that there is deeper meaning in each scene. It needs a meticulous heart to enjoy.
  • This is perhaps the worst film that had ridiculously won several awards of the Taiwanese Golden Horse Film Festival 2017. The whole screenplay got serious time-era periodical mistakes, a messy wrong intertwines of political, regional, social background. This film is so pretentiously scripted, directed and acted by all the members involved in this production.

    We have seen in this film a strong influence of the Japanese culture that has been obsessed by the Taiwanese people. The settings were so messy, sometimes Japanese, sometimes ancient Chinese, sometimes island Taiwanese. The costumes in this film showed specially designed modern current dresses, but the staging furnitures were ancient of 1950~1960, even with the old TV. The ridiculous dialog not just pretentious but totally out of sync with layouts of the film's time frame, so messy and so moronically drafted. The time frame of this film is the most serious mess-up, so confusing, with all the old furnitures around, modern costumes, buffet, wi-fi and cellphone communication.....Nothing is right, just a randomly patched up lousy production work. The actings of all the people performed in this film were just horrible to watch, their dialog and performance were all ruined by the pretentious, clueless dialog, so every one in this film inevitably acted so pretentiously and so awkwardly.

    This major winner of the 2017 Taiwan Film Festival only exposed how poor the taste of those film judges were and how pretentious they were. "The Grand Buddha+" was mediocre but not too ridiculous to watch, but this film, my, my, my, is just so over-the-top painfully to watch. It's a messy, absurd farce.

    Awarding this film as the big winner 2017 only proved how shallow and unreliable of this so-called Taiwanese Film Festival, a certified laughable joke!
  • yoggwork18 February 2019
    Barely 8 stars. At the beginning of the opera, it's better not to let people in the clouds. The whole story and performance are online, and the script is solid. The granddaughter's ugly face is paralyzed. The only thing she can see is the last look at her grandmother. It's her mother who should match the girl. Comparing her granddaughter's eyes and expressions with her mother's, it's different from heaven and earth.