The Bachelor's Swan Song (1989)
by: Derek Yee
at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1990:
After his first two directed efforts, the bleak The Lunatics and the hostage-thriller People's Hero, Derek Yee turned to perhaps something more appropriate after all that darkness, romantic comedy. The Bachelor's Swan Song for the third time that year also brought together leads Kenny Bee and Maggie Cheung (one of their other collaborations being on Anthony Chan's terrific A Fishy Story).
After saving money for their marriage, Nam (Kenny Bee) and Yuk (Maggie Cheung) are now ready and slightly forced to get married due to her pregnancy. Misery strike though as Nam loses almost all savings in a stock market crash and with their families gagging for an expensive, traditional wedding, problems definitely have arrived. What do you favour? An actual romantic small wedding or stick to tradition where its that over love? The latter would be true if you had these people as your relatives...
I'll always applaud Derek Yee's choice to be rather infrequent as director. Hong Kong filmmakers tend not to plan, develop or carefully select but working is also a necessity for some I'm sure. Yee on the other hand have provided one of the most solid, if not splendid filmographies of any Hong Kong director but for The Bachelor's Swan Song, he churned out his first disappointment which still stands as Yee's worst movie (i.e. still watchable) to date.
The main element of his and Wong Chi-Yat's script certainly holds opportunities though as they set out to satire the ever so overcomplicated planning that precedes a wedding. Even much more so before a Chinese wedding which seems to consist more of overly strictly followed forms and traditions rather than the celebration of true romance. In the midst of this change, the question of finance comes up, leading to fine comedic opportunities that Yee utilizes. His energetic cast also respond during the overly pedantic rituals, especially between the new relatives. Years and years of tradition have definitely made its meaning go astray. Where The Bachelor's Swan Song ultimately disappoints is with its inconsistent pace and tone where, true to form in pleasing the local audiences, much of the running time is devoted to whacky comedy but not in combination with enough heart.
Despite the break of 2 years between this and People's Hero, Yee seems devoid of inspiration in making an age old structure and story work. Some comedic situations sees him admirably focusing on making an obvious joke hit home, through timing of props, editing, deadpan expressions and dialogue but sadly, those moment are few. A Derek Yee on autopilot is necessarily not the biggest hack but the film doesn't have a stamp on it of quality usually associated with him. Not that comedy is a dangerous territory either for him as he proved in Viva Erotica that he has a grasp on what can be considered funny, even outside of Hong Kong. By the time of the big finale, proceedings are clearly also padded to reach 90 minutes with endless non-funny banter and tangents amongst the supporting cast that results in the most criminal things Yee and company could do to the movie. That of separating the two leads who really remains our only hope to take a true liking to the movie.
Even when venturing into the relatively few sections of drama, no subtlety is served up and frankly, the straining relationship between Nam and Yuk is not entirely worth caring for either even though their journey together is obviously a sympathetic one in its simplicity. It all comes down to the fact that none of the elements as written are utilized well, making The Bachelor's Swan Song take on the feeling of a lazy-ass Lunar New Year comedy (I couldn't find a release date...was it in fact a New Year's release?).
Since Yee also never has set out to light up the screen in striking visuals and rollercoaster rides of excitement, he almost always pays a huge attention to actors to get the best out of them. There are many examples of this trademark where he's gotten good results from both established, new and performers not usually associated with whatever genre at hand. Kenny Bee and Maggie Cheung are nice images of a young couple but never are given much to sink their teeth into. Kenny pouts his way through his performance and certainly knows how to look uncomfortable while Maggie merely is cute, not the moviestar she clearly was already at this point (see A Fishy Story). Lydia Shum however is a hoot as Yuk's very traditional mother and makes the whacky comedy on her behalf work wonderfully. It's probably the best directed performance in terms of Derek Yee's handling of actors as she also is brought in at a few moments to be absolutely serious, with good results. Wu Ma, Shing Fui On, Tai Po, Alfred Cheung and Eric Tsang also appear.
The Bachelor's Swan Song is certainly on the level of your everyday romantic comedy of the era but it ranks as disappointing considering Derek Yee had already showed tremendous amount of skill as director. Maybe comedy was too early to take on after all that darkness in the past despite a longer break preceding this project? Regardless of the answer to that question, Yee with his cast and crew are on autopilot, showing little creativity and spark. I hate to say it but Derek Yee made a lackluster film once.
Deltamac presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.90:1 approximately. No apparent framing issues are to be found despite the overmatting though. The transfer boasts solid colours and sharpness with only light speckling on the print overall. A few scenes register a bit dark though.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track is a bit muffled at times but presents solid audio otherwise. A Mandarin 2.0 track is also included.
The English subtitles feature the occasional errors but convey plot and situations well. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included. The theatrical trailer is the only extra.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
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