Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Four Women Conflict ( Suo Qing Qiu 锁清秋)/Tian Di Bu Rong 天地不容

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This production from mainland China was originally titled Tian Di Bu Rong 天地不容 (literally translated as even the Heavens forbid); but currently is released with the new title of Suo Qing Qiu 锁清秋; which to me is a rather weird name as literally it does not really mean anything by 'Lock Clear Autumn'

Anyway, this 35-episodes drama is set in Shanghai (it is produced by Shanghai Television Station (SMG)) and is centered upon the stories of women back then during the particular period and their lives with the men around them.

Of course, the title revealed itself to focus on the stories of four women; in their different ways and background and how their lives come to intertwine with each other in the drama.
Women, as we know were not looked upon kindly; let alone highly in those period and this drama shows through the characters introduced how each struggle against the society to make their stand for their own; besides the misery faced in the process.

The cast boasts of a strong batch from mainland itself; including Ady An,Annie Yi,William Feng Shao Feng and also Hong Kong stars Rain Li and veteran Michelle Yim, which makes this a much anticipated drama.

The story starts with a young girl; Du Lan Yen, who after mourning after her beloved father's death was forced out of her luxurious life by her ruthless and cruel stepmother who intends to sell her off to a brothel. She was locked in the stables until the arranged date to send her to prostitution when she was rescued by a young servant boy who was also her childhood friend, Leng Yun.
In the bid to make the escape, Leng Yun held himself back to prevent the stepmother from pursuing her, while urging Lan Yen to run for her life during the blazing fire which they accidentally set during their escapade.

Fast forward to the future, Du Lan Yen has now grown up to be a young lady serving as a maid in the house of Zhou. She is the favorite maid cum assistant of the mistress, Mrs Zhou, maiden name Li Yue Er (Annie Yi) who dotes on her. This invoked the jealousy of another maid, Kuang Chun Ni (Deng Jia Jia) who plots to get rid of her, by spreading rumors of her to the mistress.
At the same time, Master Zhou Si An had his eyes set on Du Lan Yen who brushed off his advances but stirred suspicion and jealousy in his wife.
Mrs Zhou, then decided to marry Lan Yen off to a poor cosmetics seller, Lu Da You (Wilson Guo) who fell in love at first sight with Du Lan Yen at the temple when she was with her best friend, Su Xin He (Li Fei Er).

Lan Yen refused to marry Lu Da You; however, despite her struggle, Mrs Zhou forced her into the marriage. Zhou Shi An, knowing his wife's intentions still could not get over Lan Yen and plots to find his way to rape Lan Yen.
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He threatened Lu Da You, who let him rape his wife on their wedding night; stirring hatred in Lan Yen's heart for her scumbag of a husband.

The duo then became husband and wife in name only as Lan Yen continued to be raped by Zhou Shi An; to protect Da You's younger sister, Lu Wu Shuang (Xiao Yu Yu) from being raped by Zhou Shi An (as threatened by him).
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Lan Yen grows to hate Da You more and more, but yet, she helped him with his cosmetics business; in selling lipstick and color blushes in the market to support their living.

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In a chance meeting, she met up with Leng Yun(He Chengming), the big brother and childhood love whom she had been waiting all her life to be reunited with him. However, due to her married and 'dirty' status, she realized there is no longer hope to be with him ever again. Moreover, Leng Yun also happens to know Lu Da You who was his life saviour from the fire in the past.
Her best friend, Xin He, on the other hand, fell in love with Leng Yun and kept it a secret in her heart to avoid hurting her best friend.

At the same time, Mrs Zhou is grows suspicious of her husband and found out that he has been seeing Lan Yen even after the marriage. She was upset and sought comfort in her best friend, Jiang Yu Ping (Rain Lee) who was the rich widow of a medical hall's merchant.
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After her husband's death, she inherited all his properties and served as the guardian protector for her younger brother-in-law, Jiang Shao You (Zheng Guo Lin), and playful and good-for-nothing chap.
She also had an affair with the charming heir of their alliance medical hall; Shen Zhao Chong (William Feng Shao Feng) and constantly have their tryst at a hall behind a temple, where she pretends to pay homage twice a month (1st and 15th of the lunar month)

Seeing her best friend in distress, Jiang Yu Ping enlisted the help of the charming playboy, Shen Zhao Chong to seduce Du Lan Yen and then jilt her to avenge the suffering of her best friend. Zhao Chong agreed due to the benefits of their medical supplies to his own business and started his mission to capture Du Lan Yen's heart.

However, as he starts to know her better and knowing her predicament, he was touched by her kindness and beauty and starts to head over heels in love with her; much to the anger of Jiang Yu Ping who now becomes the possessive lover and instructs Zhao Chong to leave the damsel in distress.

Zhao Chong refused; and professed his love for Lan Yen and vows to take her out of this predicament. His persistent actions led to Lan Yen also falling deeply in love with him, and after a series of incidents where Lan Yen's affair with Zhou Shi An was revealed, Zhao Chong wants to take her away from her home. Free Image Hosting
In an accidental struggle, Lu Da You was killed and Lan Yen felt guilty as she suspected herself to be the killer.

Leng Yun was on good terms with the local law enforcers and as he sought out the truth of the murder, he found more signs leading to Da You's death which ruled out the stories and confessions from Lan Yen and Zhao Chong. However, the culprit was suspected to be Su Xin Hai (Qiao Zhen Yu), Xin He's brother, who was in a relationship with Wu Shuang (Da You's sister).
The cause was ruled to be the forbidden relationship by Lu Da You which caused Xin Hai to kill in a fit of fury. Xin Hai denied but amidst the confusion, as Wu Shuang persuaded him to surrender to the law, she kills him to avenge her brother's death and then killed herself to be with her lover.

This led to Xin He to stray away from Leng Yun, as she blamed him for the fate which befell her own brother. Xin He then became closer to Jiang Shao You, the young master whom she despised from the start. She was actually a maid in the Jiang household and was the favorite assistant of Jiang Yu Ping.

In a twist of fate, she fell in love with Shao You and married him to be the 2nd mistress in the Jiang household.

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At the same time, Du Lan Yen was facing objections from Zhao Chong's mother, Mrs Shen (maiden name: Yin Xi Hong played by Michelle Yim) but faced by the defiance of her own son, Xi Hong had no choice but to allow him to marry the widow into the family; thus making Lan Yen the third wife of Zhao Chong.
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Coincidentally, her old friend cum nemesis, Kuang Chun Ni was married into the family as the 2nd wife after a brief affair by mistake. However, Chun Ni was favored by Xi Hong; much to the chagrin of the first wife who was a selfish person who thought only of her own benefits.

She rejoiced at the presence of Lan Yen and formed a bond with her, using Lan Yen to threaten Chun Ni's position as Lan Yen was doted on by Zhao Chong; the master of the house. Free Image Hosting
Chun Ni then tried to get involved in the family business and impressed Xi Hong. Lan Yen was also helpful and was the mastermind behind most of Zhao Chong's decision.

Jiang Yu Ping was angered by the union of Lan Yen and Zhao Chong and plots to destroy their happiness. She started to open a medical hall opposite Zhao Chong's and drops her price by half of his price; to drive him into a huge loss. Chun Ni was smart to propose to drop the price as well, and then further introduce a new product which was then jeopardized by Yu Ping.
Slowly, Yu Ping lost her status among the villagers as rumours were spread about her medicine and she was driven out of the village; where she was thrown into poverty following her bankruptcy. Her house was burnt and she had to escape with Xin He and Shao You who was badly burnt.
As they put up shelter at an old temple, Xin He begged Yu Ping to allow her to get a doctor to tend to the burnt Shao You and while Xin He was on the way, Yu Ping wickedly strangled Shao You to death.

Yu Ping then plots revenge against Zhao Chong and tricked Xin He into the plot; which Lan Yen tried to break her best friend out of it as Xin He abodes hatred for Zhao Chong whom she believed to be the culprit responsible for the family's predicament.

At the same time, Zhao Chong realized the true story of his birth and that Xi Hong was not really her biological mother. He was in denial and refused to believe the true story about the nun in the temple who was his real mother. In the long attempt to clear the truth, Xi Hong realized that she was tricked by her dead husband and Zhao Chong was about to unite with his biological mother when she was killed in a fire which was the works of the Jiang Yu Ping.

Meanwhile, Lan Yen became a more spiteful person following the miscarriage of her first child and she starts to turn ruthless in her bid to survive in the political household.
Chun Ni, on the other hand, feels really guilty about the miscarriage and then became a nun at the end.

Zhao Chong, in a twist of misfortune, ends up supposedly dead, but he was actually in another place and he had lost his memory. Upon his coming to, he had to masquerade as the succeeding commander to avoid revolution towards the army forces in power. He soon found himself back to Lan Yen; and as he regained his memory, he had to leave his masquerading lifestyle.
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However, he was requested to help again and to aid the country in their mission which he turned down.
Lan Yen then ended her life as she knew that she was the main deterrent factor in his decision.

The drama ended with Zhao Chong resuming his position as the commander in chief and to set out to marry the general's daughter.

The drama was interesting; and not boring at all. In fact, I find their outfit ensemble along with their hairstyle a bit unusual and I couldn't help grimacing at the ugly hairstyle they have which seems to be plastered onto their head.
Besides the costumes, the character and storyline development was convincing and had me hooked onto the next plot to be revealed in the story.
Of course, it was lot of predictable plots which were re-used from other dramas but overall, it was still a fresh idea to focus on the lives of these women who, each in order to survive, have their own reasons of survival and love.

I liked the development of the female lead; Du Lan Yen who finally became ruthless after a lifetime of being pushed around like a puppet and thrown into misery after misery. She led a pretty sad life; in my opinion.

Ady An as Du Lan Yen
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She has a rather pleasant looking face; which made it all convincing as she plays the damsel in distress and the kind woman. However, I did notice that her expression was stuck when she had to turn ruthless; it's like she was not sure how to play evil.
Her character was really pitiful and Ady did a great job in expressing it through her acting; especially in her fear of Zhou Shi An.

Michelle Yim as Yin Xi Hong
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What more can I say of a veteran actress? She was all the bit a convincing mother who was possessive of her only son; even though she knew he was no hers to begin with. She was a confused woman who was thought to be evil; but then we realize that she had a pitiful past and also, she was tricked by her own husband who had an affair with another woman. The son she raised over the years; one she thought was not her own, turned out to be really her husband's son in flesh and blood. Despite her hatred for her husband, she could not help her own motherly feelings towards her only son.
Her kindness and compassion showed when she planned for Lan Yen's future after Zhao Chong's assumed death.
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Rain Lee as Jiang Yu Ping

I am not a fan of Rain Lee; and I have always felt that she is a rather 'wooden' kind of actress; one without much expression. In this drama, she has probably improved a little but I could not help noticing that she seems to be forcing that wicked look which seemed a little unnatural to me.
It was probably the make-up which made her brows look more wicked than the original.
She was definitely the most despised character here in the drama; never knowing when to give up and that things cannot be forced. She was also the root cause of all the turmoil in the drama.
Is she a good villain? I think it was okay; and it does make sense that a woman's fury can lead to so much trouble.

Deng Jia Jia as Kuang Chun Ni
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Next to Jiang Yu Ping, this is the 2nd most despised character in the drama. She was jealous of everything; and yet, it is understandable since she was quite pitiful, as she revealed her own feelings. In a way, her actions are more justifiable compared to Jiang Yu Ping. After all, beneath all that jealousy, she still had a conscience and a soft heart and she never intend to hurt anybody in a serious or fatal way.
I felt that this actress looked a bit similar to Ady An initially; but towards the middle of the drama, she is indeed different. She has that look to show that warm and cold character in her.

Annie Yi as Li Yue E
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This woman just had the same expression all the way!!
When she's happy, when she's sad, when she's angry, when she's calm, gosh, there is just not more expression to display how she feels.
She is supposed to play a woman who is distrustful of her own husband, and yet she constantly seems to be so despaired and confused in what she wants to do next. It is just not convincing and unmatchable to her character here!
I can't feel much for this woman either; whether she is pitiful or just pathetic!

Li Fei Er as Su Xin He
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This lady is a bit blind and confused, in my opinion. She was initially portrayed as a strong lady who knows what she wants in life and stands firm on her decisions. She was the total opposite of Du Lan Yen and is more independent. However, when she meets Leng Yun, she was facing a dilemma. She was in love; and yet she could not bring herself to betray her best friend. That's why I was surprised at how she believed her own best friend's affair with Zhou Shi An when she chanced upon their tryst in Da You's house. She was the one who denied her own best friend!
Then she hated Leng Yun for causing her brother's death and slowly she fell for Shao You. She was back to normal at that point, and then she went berserk again after his death and on the strings of Jiang Yu Ping as she plots revenge against Shen Zhao Chong.
Sometimes, her portrayal made me feel like Xin He does not even know what is her main aim in life.

Xiao Yu Yu as Lu Wu Shuang
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This young and immature girl stood by her elder brother faithfully; probably due to him being her only family member left. She was too blinded by their sibling love and was angered at her sister-in-law's infidelity towards her brother; without knowing the real reason. She was angered by her brother's objection towards her relationship with Xin Hai. She is just an impatient and brash person; who just killed the man he loved upon suspecting that he was responsible for her brother's death.
I guess it's a hard toss between sibling and the love of your life, huh?

The gentlemen
William Feng Shao Feng as Shen Zhao Chong
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A charming man to play this casanova in the drama; he really that the looks and that mischievous grin to play the role convincingly. He was really playful in the beginning and enjoyed his trysts with the widowed Jiang Yu Ping; behind his wife's back. However, when he was entrusted with the mission to seduce Du Lan Yen which he accepted willingly, he found himself in a confused state when he starts to fall for the girl. He then turned into a different person as we see how Zhao Chong matures and starts to think for others. He starts to be protective of Lan Yen and even defied his mother's wishes to marry her. I could feel his love; which was just romantic as he just dotes on his third wife. His love for her was just strong that it did not even waver amidst all the happenings in his life. It was sad that he witnessed how she took her own life for his good and for the country; and I was proud that he did not fall back after the sacrifice of Lan Yen.
This is the character that I truly liked in the drama; for his character went through a dramatic change throughout the episodes.

Mickey He Chengming as Leng Yun
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He loved and cared for Lan Yen his whole life; and he was initially like everyone else, believing in the rumours that she committed adultery with Zhou Shi An. After the truth is revealed, he found himself getting even more protective over her but yet he could break against the barrier to betray his life saviour, Lu Da You.
However, he still stayed by her side and refused to accept Xin He in his heart. When he is ready to be with Lan Yen, it was already too late as she had fallen for Zhao Chong. He was noble to stay by her side as a big brother and wished for their happiness. He cared for Xin He; and I think he himself was confused over his own feelings for Xin He.
I could see how much he cared for her when she was addicted to opium.
Somehow, this is another pitiful character and why is it that all the women he loved turned out to marry someone else? He took up Xin He as his responsibility and stayed with the girl who turned crazy at the end.

Wilson Guo as Lu Da You
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Despicable! Initially I pitied him as he had disabilities (speech and walking) but I was totally disgusted with his act in allowing Zhou Shi An to rape his own wife to protect his own sister.
Sure enough, he loved his own sister much more than anyone else, but to stand there and cup his ears when his wife was screaming during the rape is too much for a man! He is just plain selfish; he knew that Lan Yen did not love him and yet he just refused to let her go when she found Leng Yun and then when Zhao Chong wants to take her away.
I was not sorry that he died in the drama; as there is no nobility at all in this character!

Qiao Chen Yu as Su Xin Hai
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I did not see much from him except his love for Wu Shuang and his trying so hard to do something good to prove himself to the silly Lu Da You who looked down on him (as if Lu Da You has any great accomplishment in his life!)

Overall, it was a well-developed story and I find myself feeling the emotions experienced by most of the characters here. It was also a colorful and dramatic plot; and do watch it with an open heart; without any high expectations as this is after all, a usual soap opera type of drama.
Furthermore, this is all focused on the women and for the first time, the men are the accompanying characters =)

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smile said...

Dear Christy. Your detailed review was very helpful. I cannot wait for watching the "Suo Qing Qiu" myself, and I have to say, all other reviews on C-dramas were also very great. I am wondering whether you have interests in trying "Yun Niang(2008) starring William Feng and Ady An since the two have irresistible chemistry in a twist of love. Hope to read your awesome review on "Yun Niang" someday.

Christy said...

Hi Smile, Thank you very much!:) I am glad to help, it made me feel more motivated to write more reviews, and actually I am in the midst of writing a few as well at the moment;)
As it is, I was actually looking for Yun Niang myself, but I just haven't gotten the drama yet. Hope I can get to read it soon and then review the drama here too!;) Thanks for coming here and do check out the other reviews too :D