Love for All Seasons - Yet Again a Male-centric Love Story

Though shot in location in the scenic Mount Emei in Chengtu, with typically Hong Kong story and farce, a universal love plot-line, some auspiciously named kungfu moves and a happy ending, Love for All Seasons is very much a film formulated for the Chinese New Year holiday. Just as in Wu Yen, Johnnie To Kei-fung again stoops to conquer. Both starring the box-office queen Sammi Cheng, this time there is the addition of the hot hunk Louis Koo, and the audience of course expect nothing less than a romantic love story for a temporary relief from the gloomy reality.

Just as what Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai have calculated, audience of all denominators leave the cinema entertained and satisfied. Unlike the generic-breaking The Longest Nite, Expect the Unexpected and The Mission made in the Milkyway Image days, Love for All Seasons is a conventional generic film for the New Year, a commercial production pure and simple. Then how should it be analyzed and criticized? The basic structure follows the Needing You formula of love transcending social class. The hero and heroine are as different in social class and character as it can be, with one the acting mistress-in-charge of Emei, the other an unrivaled breaker of ladies' heart. Despising each other, they have to fall in love in order to help the heroine master the Heartbroken Sword. Of course, they progress from faking it to genuinely falling in love, with the heroine finally won over by the hero's sincerity in the happy ending.

However, the film gives love a questionable "hurting in the name of love "twist. The man breaks the woman's heart for her own good, as the means to help her master the moves of the Heartbroken Sword. Love here becomes the means to an end, the mastery of kungfu moves. It raises not just the issue of the feasibility or the logic of such a claim, but hurting/being hurt as the measurement of sincerity and involvement in a relationship. If heartbreaking can be manipulated for an end, then is sincerity the basic criteria of genuine love. It reeks of masculine superiority here as the woman can master her kungfu only through the love of a man. If love is mutual giving, how come here, in the heartbreaking process, it is always the woman who is being abused and the man the abuser? The recurring line, "You don't hurt me deep enough!" is quite frankly a declaration of female submission for the satisfaction of the male chauvinists.

The last strike" the Perfect Match" is nothing more than an excuse for the conversion of the hypocritical Don Juan. In the guessing game of "loves me, loves me not', it is always the woman who waits to be delivered from the suspense. In a consumer society full of romantic myths, love is the most intoxicating and personal projection of fantasy for the young men and women. Yet, love films of all genres (whether tragedy, comedy or New Year blockbuster) always succumb to traditional male-centric ideologies and thinking.

By William Cheung

(Translated by Teri Chan)