Directed by: Sit Kwan
Produced by: Run Run Shaw
Written by: Wong Lau-Chiu
Cast: Peter Chen Ho, Cheng Pei-Pei
Blue Skies is a Hong Kong musical from the roaring 60s. I use the word”roaring” in this context because this film channels the ”60s-ness” very well and its aesthetics is very grounded in that era. This isn’t the typical film I would want to watch considering musicals aren’t really my thing but I felt a desire to watch it since it had Cheng Pei-Pei in a leading role. Cheng Pei-Pei is mainly remembered as an austere kung-fu female warrior in popular culture and I greatly enjoy seeing her in that role. But a chance to see her in a more traditional ”feminine” role greatly intrigued me since I was so accustomed to seeing her as a hardened warrior where ”femininity” and even ”beauty” was kind of downplayed. A film which highlights these features of her interested me. So, I took a chance to watch a musical.
The plot of Blue Skies is actually quite simple and likely even more on the clichéd side more than anything. But it’s the execution of the film that adds to the quality, not its particular originality. A naive young woman gets a lucky break to enter the showbiz of becoming an actress who has a lead role in musicals, but the ugly truths of this business may put her relationship with the man she loves in danger and even her life may be destroyed as a result.
At its bare essence, it is an idyllic story of rags to riches than becoming a story of personal growth as the plot thickens. Musicals are probably the treasure troves of idyllic stories. The tale of this film probably has been repeated countless time but the tale being in the form of a musical almost gives the film a mythical atmosphere. Not only does it keep the story fresher but rather it changes how we the audience view the story, instead of treating the story more of something to match our reality, the film becomes something more of a fairytale-esque story making the film’s story oddly more conceivable. Thus Blue Skies is able to dodge our natural cynicism to tell its story.
Cheng Pei-Pei should be commended much for her role in this film, it’s really doubtful that the film wouldn’t be as good as if it wasn’t for her inclusion. Not that I was doubtful about her talent as an actress but seeing play a role she wasn’t typically associated with really solidified her great talent at acting in my eyes. Without Cheng Pei- Pei channeling her character emotions and vulnerability, the film’s resonance would be on the more shaky ground likely. Besides her acting chops getting better exposure, Cheng Pei-Pei’s natural beauty gets to shine better forth as well. And timeless less cloaked by period fashion but greatly bedazzled by the quirky fashion of the 60s. An another aspect that adds to the greatness of her performance is her amazing ability as a dancer, she trained as a dancer for many years and this film acts as a great showcase of said skill. Poses and movement that retain great majesty yet seem so simple and easy enough to fool you. Believe me when I say she helped elevate the film’s quality.
An idyllic film for sure, don’t let that fool you, this film isn’t some kind of total idealistic and romanticized dream. As some musicals tend to be but rather a certain fact of the film that adds to its emotional resonance is its exploration of the ugly reality of becoming a star. How fame is a fickle mistress and how much you need to sacrifice for this fame. This underbelly of the narrative allows the to film encompass a tragedy. A tragic scope of the film that provides a clear and concise moral lesson for the viewers. That is what lies at the heart of Blue Skies an idyllic musical that is a moralizing tale.