Within moments of the opening credits of the weepy, self-important, World War II-era Chinese soap opera "Pavilion of Women" a question arises that plagues the whole movie: Why is this in English?
Everything about this film screams "import" except the dialogue, which screams "translated too literally." A good half of the language coming out of people's mouths sounds so absurdly formalized that any emotion it might have contained is lost under the burden of unnecessary syllables. This is especially odd since the movie was adapted from a Pearl S. Buck novel and written in English to begin with.
The problem (with the dialogue that is, for there are many problems) may also be that the delivery is always either bloodless or histrionic. This could be another byproduct of the picture being a hybrid of Chinese culture and English language. It is Hong Kong director Yim Ho's first project not shot in his native tongue and most of the actors (all Chinese except a missionary played by Willem Dafoe) seem to have learned their lines phonetically and have no idea what they're saying.
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