In 1936 China, a nearly bankrupt drama troupe starts performing in a burned-out theater where the great actor Song Danping was killed. One of the actors, Wei Qing, starts seeing strange apparitions that could revive his troupe and deliver him to the same fate as Song Danping.
The Phantom Lover transports the gothic atmosphere of a classic Universal horror film to a Chinese setting.
The film, which boasts lavish sets and a thundering digital soundtrack, sees Leslie Cheung as Song Danping, a Westernised opera singer in the China of the 1920s. When Danping falls for fresh-faced Yunyan, already betrothed to another, he incurs the wrath of her future father-in-law, who disfigures Danping in a vicious acid attack and burns the opera house down… Ronny Yu built a full-size opera house in Beijing Film Studio, and the huge structure brings a grandeur to the proceedings. Added visual interest is gained by the way Yu mixes Gothic flourishes straight out of Hammer horror films with Chinese imagery. The Phantom Lover is based on Chinese director Maxu Weibang’s 1937 blockbuster Midnight Song. Yu has changed much of the story and replaced Midnight Song’s macabre images and political edge with his own brand of moody atmospherics.
Richard James Havis