The Mistress (1999)

Directed by
Strikingly mature & confident directorial debut
Reviewed by Simon on 2002-01-15

Alex (Jacqueline Peng) is employed by suave business man Ray Lui to teach English to his mistress from the mainland, Michelle (Vicky Chen). The two girls become friends, and Alex begins to fantasize about what Michelle's life as a paid mistress must be like. Then there's a big fight at the end and the good guys win.

Actually it seems like they forgot to add that last bit in... honestly, some people just have no idea how to make movies! Although to be fair Crystal Kwok doesn't seem to be one of them. Given that THE MISTRESS was her debut film as a director, she shows a remarkable level of confidence and maturity. It's clear that she had a strong vision of how she wanted her movie to look and feel, and seems to have known exactly how to achieve it. The movie is lusciously and creatively filmed, with camerawork and editing that would do any arthouse director proud... especially the blending of reality with the fantasies in Alex' head.

The movie is mainly an exploration of Alex' character, and it's rare that a movie from Hong Kong does such a good job of taking the viewer so thoroughly on a tour of somebody's mind. I think that the movie is probably quite strongly 'feminist' - at least, there were times that I felt very much like I was an outsider to the world of the characters, although that may not have been due to gender I guess :)

With it's title and CAT III rating, The Mistress has probably disappeared under most people's radar, which is a shame as it's as interesting a debut feature as any I've seen. The only places where it stumbled slightly for me were in a couple of conversations between Alex and her friend that were held in English, where the acting was clearly unconvincing. Perhaps for native Cantonese speakers the same would be noticable throughout the rest of the movie (especially since Peng is clearly US or Canadian raised from her accent), in which case I guess the movie would not work nearly so well. I think it would do very well on the international circuit though (festivals and art theatres rather than Blockbuster rental shelves) - maybe it already did in fact, but I think I would have heard it mentioned more often if so.

Definitely a movie of note... not necessarily recommended to all comers, but if the description intrigues you then chances are that you will enjoy the movie a lot. And if it doesn't, well... maybe if I mention that the girls are incredibly cute it will? ;-)