Para Para Sakura (芭啦芭啦櫻之花)

para para

You may familiar with with the two pint-sized whirlwinds from Essex, Sophia Grace and Rosie, who occasionally do a bit on Ellen Degeneres’s show. These chatty children make notably witty and grown-up observations (see tea time with celebrities and various field reports) to the delight of many. Para Para Sakura is the opposite of that. Two grown-ups try their best to mimic primary schoolers, and it’s questionable who is thrilled by this act.

Aaron Kwok stars as Philip, a dance instructor with little confidence in life and love. This stems in part from a family curse that condemns him to bachelorhood. He is also handicapped by colorblindness and sees everything in grayscale. That’s pretty hard (or easy, depending) to imagine when you consider Kwok’s normal wardrobe.

Things brighten when Yuriko (Cheung) waltzes into his life. Philip knows she’s the one because she appears as a blazing ball of fuchsia in his colorless world. The audience knows she’s the one because they both behave like frivolous children. Though she takes the form of a grown woman, Yuriko giggles nonsensically, as women who populate Hong Kong cinema are wont to do, and teases the bumbling Philip with a schoolgirl’s zing. This causes him to regress to a similarly infantile state, and he is reduced to whining about things like finding a bathroom in time. Kudos to the creative team for their brave stand on equality; Hong Kong men, you apparently act like dolts too.

Luckily though the smitten Philip has stellar dance skills, which he uses to win over Yuriko and to fight off a gang of men in black who are tailing the pair. Yuriko, it turns out, is a wealthy heiress trying to bail on her wedding, so the family bodyguards are sent to retrieve her. It’s not very clear why she doesn’t want to marry her betrothed, except that he seems far too mature for her. Nor does it seem sensible for the flighty Yuriko to take to Philip, who is dull even by his best friend’s (Ah Niu) estimation.

Thankfully character development is not the selling point of this movie. This film takes advantage of Hong Kong’s obsession with all things Japanese and indulges in the para para dance craze. Parts of it play like an arcade DDR come to flash mob life while others simply showcase Aaron Kwok’s elasticity. The one truly refreshing thing about this movie is the earthy Shanghai setting. Rewatching this in 2013, it’s nice to see a Chinese city that doesn’t need to dazzle with the veneer of modernity.

Released: 2001
Prod: David Chan 陳錫康, Li Zhu-An 李竹安, Sasaki Kyo 佐々木享, Patricia Chong 莊麗真
Dir: Jingle Ma 馬楚成
Writer: Susan Chan 陳淑賢
Cast:  Aaron Kwok 郭富城; Cecilia Cheung 張柏芝; Ah Niu 陳慶祥 (阿牛); Han Xue 韓雪; Wong Cho-Yiu 黃祖耀; Tien Niu 恬妞; Kazuhiko Nishimura 西村和彦; Seung Yik-San 湯亦晨; Sueyoshi Rika 末吉里花
Time: 101 min
Lang: Cantonese with Mandarin and Japanese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2013