Probably one of the least known works of Yonfan, “Immortal Story” is a film that exemplifies love and its complexity, as much as Macao.
Mei Ling is an orphan girl with a great voice living in Macao, who depends on her aunt to make decisions for her. Her only friend is a kid named Le Wen Chi, who seems to idolize her, but also has a tendency for stealing. Eventually he finds a wallet and they decide to return it to Chung Chuen, a rich foreigner who is staying in the place with some colleagues. When Chung visits the restaurant Mei Ling is performing, he falls in love with her and the feeling is mutual. However, he eventually has to leave, and Mei Ling, despite having his address, decides not to ever write him, wary of the difference in social status.
After some years, she meets Pak Lan, an owner of a club who runs a hostess enterprise on the side, and forms another dependant relationship with her, even living in her house. Pak Lan loves Mei Ling, but also takes advantage of her, making her sleep with rich patrons. Ten years after his departure, Chung Chuen returns to Macao, to find a totally changed Mei Ling.
Yonfan actually presents the story in flashbacks, as the film starts with Chung Chuen’s murder, and the story is revealed first through Mei Ling’s narration, who is in prison under interrogation, and then through Pak Lan’s. Furthermore, a trial regarding the murder is also included in the script.
The story obviously revolves around Mei Ling and the hardships she has to face due to her weak, utterly dependant character. This trait of hers actually shapes both of her most significant relationships, with Chung Chuen, where she cannot bring herself to act on her feelings, and Pak Lan, who dominates every aspect of her life. In that fashion, she is a very tragic figure, who eventually draws in her tragedy all of the people around her.
Every aspect of the film’s aesthetics point towards the ’80s: The clothes, the hair, the clubs and restaurants, the music and the constant smoking. This trait, however, injects the film with the permeating sense of nostalgia, which works quite well in combination with the script. As the Macao of the era was still a small colonial town, Jingle Ma takes advantage of its idyllic setting to show its beauties, particularly during the sequence where Chung Chuen and Mei Ling fall in love. His cinematography reaches its peak during this sequence, as it presents a number of impressive images from the area. In that fashion, Yonfan kept the pace of the movie in a conveniently slow speed, that lets the spectator admire Macao. Alvin Kwok’s music is almost constant, and occasionally makes the film seem like a music video.
Expectantly, since the film was shot in 1987, the script is a bit hyperbolic at times, but this trait actually seems to fit its general aesthetics.
Sylvia Chang is impressive as Mei Ling, elaborately portraying all of her character’s transformations, and her only trait that remained the same, her dependence on others. Wei Yao is very convincing as Pak Lan, a woman who seems to love Mei Ling in her own, despotic way. Tsutsumi Shingo as Chung Chuen has a smaller role than the aforementioned, in the archetype of the handsome and fateful man. Lastly, an unrecognizable Fan Siu Wong also holds a small part, as the teenager Li Wen Chi.
“Immortal Story” is a very beautiful film, that will definitely make its audience feel nostalgia about the ’80’s as they admire Sylvia Chang.
World Premiere of the restored version for the 30th anniversary of the film screened during the 1st International Film Festival & Awards of Macao.