Our Rating: ★★☆☆☆
L Factor: Gender Bender
Short Take: Screwball period comedy, gender bending, fantasy tale about an emperor and his two loves.
Alternate Titles: Chung mo yim
Year: 2001
Duration: 123 min
Language: Hong Kong/Chinese
MPAA: Not Rated
Director: Johnnie To, Ka-Fai Wai
Writer: Ka-Fai Wai, Nai-Hoi Yau
Starring: Sammi Cheng, Anita Mui, Cecilia Cheung
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Wu yenThis screwball period comedy won Sammi Cheng the Hong Kong Film Critics Award for best actress and was nominated for several others. Three women carry the gender bending fantasy tale about an emperor and his two loves. Each woman plays both male and female in different points of the film.

The male Emperor Qi (Anita Mui, Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man) falls in love with beautiful female warrior Wu Yen (Cheng), a woman whose fighting skills surpass any of those in the region. But a fox spirit (Cecelia Cheung) is also in love with Wu Yen and curses her to be ugly whenever she feels love for the emperor.

The fox spirit is in human male form when with Wu Yen, but morphs into a woman to seduce the emperor. The fickle Qi spurns Wu Yen but always comes begging for her help in times of war. He sleeps with both women and marries Wu Yen only when an ancestor’s spell makes her beautiful for the night. The inexperienced ancestor (played by Mui) also turns Wu Yen into a man for a time. When the fox spirit causes trouble in the palace, Qi escapes only by pretending to be a woman (thus a female actress pretending to be a man passing as a woman).

The two hour film was a little long for my tastes, and some of the slapstick comedy got a little old. Just not enough kung fu action from the warrior who can defeat a sword with something as simple as a broom. (AB)