Turn Left Turn Right (2003)
Directed by: Johnnie To & Wai Ka-Fai
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Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2004:
Award at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards 2003:
Nominations at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards 2003:
From a year Johnnie To, Wai Ka-Fai and their Milkyway Image were showering Hong Kong cinema with multiple productions and getting showered with multiple awards for the likes of PTU and Running On Karma, Turn Left Turn Right seemed to be, in the eyes of feeble old me, like another product of the light kind coming out of the production house. A light product born out of necessity. Because making Milkyway movies like Milkyway wants to make them has not always been a given so the ultra-commercial has been injected on occasion (see Needing You). I've always stated my non-preference in these ventures for Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai but with Turn Left Turn Right, they finally made something that comes from a place that isn't totally mainstream-minded. It comes from an old fashioned heart.
Based on a book by Jimmy Liao called "A Chance Of Sunshine", as we enter Taipei during bad weather conditions, basically the only spots of colour are our leads, mostly referred throughout the film by their old school id numbers 763092 (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and 784533 (Gigi Leung). Having once been infatuated by each other as kids, meeting on a similar note in Taipei as adults, violinist 763092 and translator 784533, synch up totally but fate hands them an awful blow when their exchanged phone numbers gets smudged by rain drops. And fate isn't done with them as they never seems to be able to reach other, despite being so close. And that's literally because they are also next door neighbours...
They are certainly two distinctive spots of colour in Taipei but also children in the city. Trying to make careers out of their respective talents, they initially have to settle for a low choice. He plays "Happy Birthday" at a restaurant and she translates German horror novels that she engages in far too deeply. But none of that matters during the meeting at a little lake at a park. OF COURSE they meet in a similar fashion as when they were young, OF COURSE they are synced up to almost surreal levels and OF COURSE you could argue the little connections the events have to proper reality. But the Milkyway stable of writers are damn fine, old fashioned romantics about it all, injecting a classic sweetness over the whole puppy love and with that, director Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai begin their journey that will make their true versatility come to life in a romance vehicle finally.
There's no shortage of fine atmosphere as the sweet piano score by Chung Chi-Wing and Ben Cheung drowns us and Cheng Siu-Keung's camera sweeps over Taipei in a loving way. And why this romance that has the word fluff glued to it is valid in a manner that others aren't, is due to an intention that doesn't scream lazy but instead dedicated right from the playful heart. Having cast Takeshi Kaneshiro and Gigi Leung as basically two flimsy children adds to a spot on charm that is structurally broken when Dr. Wu (Edmund Chen) and Ruby (Terri Kwan) are introduced to claim THEY are the fated lovers of our actual fated lovers. Beginning their abuse of the audience, our co-directors ventures into slippery territory by making these two rivals of the puppy love aggravating, annoying and totally unrealistic. But you get a sense of rule breaking in the most positive of ways in the film because even the light beginning is so perfect, it must be set in another dimension. Hence us having to deal with characters like Dr. Wu and Ruby, hence playing on the fact that we can switch off concerns of reality for a bit and hence playing on the fact that the latter stages contain both equal doses of reality and movie.
Because fate deals you a wonderful set of cards at times that means you have to perform change in order to further yourself and Turn Left Turn Right indeed argues that this flinging about of the emotions of the audience is very healthy. Plus, it's engaging to the full, old fashioned, mixed up in a risky but ultimately totally pleasurable manner that has now turned around a die hard hater of any Milkyway output not dealing in darkness. That's how much heart Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai put into Turn Left Turn Right.
Distributed by Warner Bros in Asia, the Japan edition features an 1.76:1 framed, anamorphically enhanced transfer. Looking clean and clear, the transfer succeeds.
Audio options are Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 but as I'm not equipped with such a system, my assessment of this disc aspect will be left off this review. Despite the Taipei setting, most of the film is performed in synch sound Cantonese (a few excursions into English, German, Polish and Mandarin are present) and it's the third audio option on the disc (the menus are all in Japanese)
The English subtitles are flawless and fully coherent. Two sets of Japanese subtitles, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese are also included.
A little extras package does come included (lacking English subtitles), starting with 2 trailers and 2 TV Spots. The standard Making Of (12 minutes, 33 seconds) does contain a look at the illustrations in Jimmy Liao's book, which is neat. Finally, the music videos for Gigi Leung's songs provided for the movie are included. Combining movie clips and Leung lip synching, neither of the clips are very interesting.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson