I love this film. It's not perfect by any means, in fact its got a considerable amount of flaws, but there's just something about it...
On the surface "Visible Secret" is a horror film, but in it's heart its a love story. The film plays out like a relationship movie, often leaving the horror aspects to float. It also lacks focus because it's not completely clear how, or even if, all this is going to fit together. Is the purpose of the film to bring the two leads together, solve the mystery or both? That's unclear to the very end.
Also the horror parts of the story are less than effective. There's two or three good scares at the most, but there's never that all-encompassing eerie feeling that a good horror film needs.
While the film certainly fails as a horror film or even as a thriller, it succeeds as a quirky little tale that's never anything less than engaging. Part of the reason for this is that it really does evolve in completely unpredictable ways.
The film is beautifully shot by Arthur Wong (Ngok Tai), who also photographed the gorgeous looking "Purple Storm" and "Gen-X Cops". He uses colors to create the mood, and his cinematography works its magic through subtlety. Many Hong Kong ghost stories too quickly resort to the usual aggressive wide-angle close-up but you won't find a lot of that here. The images here are often restrained and lyrical in nature and they suit the film really well.
Most daytime exterior scenes appear washed out, almost bleached. But this was done on purpose, and it adds to the overall feeling that something is going on in the colorful night scenes.
Shu Qi is adorable in this one. She gets to hit all her marks. She plays crazy, sad, hysterical, cuddly, in love, lonely, scared. This is why she's a star. She's adorable no matter what she does.
The scenes where Peter is forced to push June away because she brings more pain than pleasure are truly heartbreaking, and the film would be a lot less involving if it wasn't for Shu Qi's ability to gain our sympathy. To be honest the story is fluffy and a bit disjointed, but it's Shu Qi's performance that makes us care about the whole thing.
Eason Chan may look like he's about to die from boredom, and it seems to me like he's yawning in every other scene. This may annoy some, but in my opinion it actually works in this context. He provides a rational voice, and good contrast, to Shu Qi's manic June, and he is our guide through this crazy universe and his doubt and confusion often reflects our own.
Sam Lee is once again reduced to playing "the friend". Aside from a few funny bits, he doesn't really get to goof around this time, and I can't decide whether this is actually a good thing.
There's an extra layer in "Visible Secret" that you will only appreciate once you've seen the whole film. It begs to be analysed in details, but I feel that this review is mostly for people who have yet to see this film, so it would be a shame to reveal any crucial details here.
So what is the low-down on "Visible Secret"? Is it wholesome fun for kids of all ages? Not exactly! Is it a good introduction to Hong Kong horror films for folks new to the asian scene? Certainly not! Well, what is it then? In short "Visible Secret" is an enjoyable ride for the seasoned Hong Kong film freak, but newcomers should be cautious. The film is a bit of a mess and if you come to this film unprepared for the Hong Kong storytelling style you'll likely spend most of the time, just wondering if you're suppose to be scared or laughing.
Fans of Shu Qi will likely lap this right up, as it is a great showcase for her qualities. And those of us who are truly smitten with this beauty will treasure the image of her standing in the rain and crying, looking at the guy who got away. Yes, I admit it gladly. When I saw this scene, I cried a little bit too...