Vic Chou Yu-Min

Sleepless Fashion (与时尚同居)

sleepless fashion

“In front of beauty, we are all equal,” declares Patrick, a fashion magazine editor. Having been ousted from his perch at Celebrity, China’s top fashion monthly, he decides to start a rival publication, Modern, and go toe-to-toe with his former colleagues peddling glamour to the aspirational masses. But a few setbacks cause him to take a u-turn, and he begins to find beauty in the ordinary, seeing fashion as a conduit rather than a barrier for the common masses to appreciate the virtues of everyday life.

It’s a wonderfully egalitarian message but one that proves to be conflicting over the course of the movie, which begins as an ode to monied elitism. The feeble Zhou Xiaohui (Vic Chou) is being schooled by fashion magazine legend Alex (Alan Tam), the stout, studded leather glove wearing, Chinese male version of Anna Wintour. Alex spouts pearls of wisdom like, “A big man is fashioned by fashion,” “Foster a sense of class consciousness,” and “Fashion is making people envy you.” The eager and impressional Xiaohui soaks this up and is immediately christened Patrick by his new boss.

He makes a quick rise to Celebrity’s associate editor, where he exacts a similar reign of fashion terror on his underlings, chastising them for mispronouncing the names of designer labels or for wearing thermal underwear beneath their trousers. Patrick thrives in this world where, as he proclaims, elegance and vulgarity are defined by magazine editors. That’s not exactly the outlook of someone who ends up championing the proletariat.

His re-education happens by turns, including a Jerry Maguire-like dismissal after his star begins to eclipse that of his mentor. The allure of high-end fashion and the exclusivity that it promotes begin to fall away as the movie wears on. Patrick hires a ragtag staff that have no business in fashion publishing. Besides a wedding photographer and a traditional Chinese arts and craftsman as his designer, he strings along his faithful tracksuit-wearing assistant Yinghong (Vivian Hsu) and gets financial backing from his unemployed but wealthy friend Yangyang (Kimi Qiao Renliang).

Their difficulties establishing Modern first drive him to compete for the same swank mantle as Celebrity. He pursues a major shoot with a reclusive singer and idol Qi Xi and tries to lure his former advertisers. But eventually, the movie begins to posit that real fashion is liberating; it’s what brings people to beauty that is all around and not what brings people multiple carat stones or Italian designers. Moreover, it involves thinking outside the box; one must stand out and go against expectations in order to be successful.

On the face of it, Sleepless Fashion seems to uphold a plebeian sensibility and possibly move in the opposite direction of the culture of rampant conspicuous consumption that has characterized much of China’s last decade or so. At the same time, it subtly advocates that very sense of consumerism. The words contrast with the images presented, and the movie never really eschews the glamour of Celebrity. Even the canvas it’s painted on is that of a bright, aspirational, and upwardly mobile China.

Something else to chew on is the emphasis on individuality, opportunity, and the self-made man. Modern gives several characters a chance to reinvent themselves; Patrick reverts to his Chinese name after his ouster, and Yangyang tries to prove himself to his nouveau riche father. One could mine a lot from the national and cultural contexts of this narrative focus.

As a study, this film is more thoughtful than I expected, with credit to some of the secondary actors. Hsu offers a lot of warmth and tenderness and transforms Yinghong into more than a chipper lackey. Qiao also has a few fine moments as someone struggling to define himself on his own terms. Still, the movie doesn’t rise to its potential because the two main actors never fully inhabit their roles. A gaunt and bleary eyed Chou occasionally finds his footing but Xiaohui lacks that inner drive that is fueling his venture, and his outbursts. Tam, meanwhile, isn’t playing a character so much as he is walking through a part as Alan Tam.

“我們的路” (“Our Road”) by the Chopstick Brothers:

Released: 2011
Alt Title: Living with Fashion
Prod: Wang Zhe; Song Guangcheng
Dir: Yin Lichuan 尹麗川
Writer: Yin Lichuan 尹麗川
Cast: Vic Chou 周渝民; Alan Tam 譚詠麟; Vivian Hsu 徐若瑄; Kimi Qiao Renliang 喬任梁; Chun Xiao 春曉; Wang Shuili 王水利; Tong Lei 佟磊; Shu Yaoxuan 舒耀瑄; Lam Suet 林雪; Yu Nan 余男
Time: 93 min
Lang: Mandarin
Country: Mainland China
Reviewed: 2014

Love You 10,000 Years (愛你一萬年)

10000 years

Love You 10,000 Years – Another attempt by Vic Chou at being a “real” actor, or what I wish he’d say to me every night. [Switching off fangirl.] This movie follows his well-received performance in the television series Black and White (痞子英雄) in which he played against type as a roguish police officer. He continues to veer from his sweet ‘n’ sensitive image, here by looking like a dirty, crumpled piece of paper.

Chou doesn’t shed the boy band persona completely though; he plays Qifeng, a rock musician with the Electro Monkey Boys who also has serious commitment issues. None of his relationships lasts more than three months, and after each breakup, he goes back to bumming around with his mates.

Meanwhile in Japan, Sakurada (Kato) has two job offers. She is hired by way of a marriage proposal to be the wife of her longterm boyfriend; she sensibly declines. A company gives her a more reasonable position, which she accepts, but she must spend three months in Taiwan to brush up her Chinese. Sakurada jumps at the opportunity to explore a new place and to escape her parents.

Things get off to a perfect rom-com start, which is to say they begin miserably. She gets drunk on her first night, crashes Qifeng’s show, and then smashes his guitar. Her second night is just as unlucky when the two end up on a bus driven by a vengeful henpecked husband. He leaves them stranded in the middle of nowhere, a very good place to begin a romantic relationship, or a murder spree.

It’s the former, and soon, Qifeng and Sakurada decide to try out a tidy three month affair. They draw up a contract outlining the terms of their romance, including a clause that stipulates a fine for prematurely ending the relationship. Living together proves to be more difficult than they anticipate, however; Sakurada berates Qifeng for his lack of good housekeeping skills while he cannot tolerate her nagging.

Neither the script nor the direction takes full advantage of Chou and Kato’s endearing chemistry, and their characters’ feelings for each other vacillate from hot to cold. Individual moments between the two come across genuinely but the relationship as a whole doesn’t reveal itself as naturally as it could have. The movie is also hurt by a protracted ending that keeps the leads apart for fifteen minutes too long.

Nevertheless, Love You 10,000 Years is a fun film that utilizes many tools in its genre. It’s spiced with musical interludes and punchy cartoons, and the movie is especially buoyed by the charm of its supporting cast. Na Dou steals a few scenes as a cross-dressing landlord while Moon Wang, of Meteor Garden fame, takes an amusing turn as a Chinese language teacher. Sakurada’s foreign adventures will also be familiar to those who have worked or studied abroad in Asia, except for that falling in love with Vic Chou bit.

“Love You 10,000 Years” by Vic Chou

“I Fell Asleep Thinking of You” by Vic Chou

Released: 2010
Prod: Peggy Chiao 焦雄屏
Dir: Toyoharu Kitamura 北村豊晴
Writer: Jian Shi-Geng 簡士耕
Cast: Vic Chou 周渝民; Kato Youki 加藤侑紀; Moon Wang 王月; Mimura Takayo 三村恭代; Na Dou 納豆; Huang Teng-Hui 黃鐙輝; Li Bo-En 李伯恩; Hao Lei 郝蕾
Time: 108 min
Lang: Mandarin, Japanese
Country: Taiwan
Reviewed: 2013