Air Hostess
Hong Kong 1959
Directed by Yi Men.

It was another age, another lifetime ago, but at one point being a stewardess was actually a "glamour" job, one that applicants worked hard to attain. I must admit even today I am blown away by the linguistic skills of some flight attendants on east asian airlines, who must be at least tri-lingual to even be considered for the job. In 1959, they test the women rigorously, to see if they have the right spirit, and most importantly to see if they smile "from the heart." Next comes the "body check." None of this is sexist or anything, is it? And anyway, when's the swimsuit competition?

Lin Keping (Grace Chang) wants to be a stewardess, but her family wants her to get married. "I don't want to be a caged canary," she tells them, "I want to fly in the sky!" And of course, with a smile like hers, she's a shoe-in for the position. And that handsome man dressed as a pilot she met at a costume party, Lei Daying (Roy Chiao), wasn't in costume at all, but in uniform. Romance blossoms on the ground, though in the air Lei does a Jekyl and Hyde routine ("Don't neglect your service attitude!") he admonishes her, sternly.

Her friends, who have names but should probably just be known by their one dimensional character attributes (the shy one, the sexy one, etc.) all have their struggles and triumphs as well on the road to being flight attendants.

Sometimes it all just looks like a tourist brochure, as inbetween flights the girls and boys date while sightseeing in Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan. But it isn't quite a tourist brochure. Most viewers weren't going to get up and fly to those destinations themselves. Rather, it was pure escapist entertainment. Beautiful people, going to beautiful places, seeing the world, falling in love.

Grace Chang, of course, also happens to be a good singer, and she does a handful of musical numbers. While her singing is great, and the music is fun, the way the numbers are staged is painful, almost always involving a room full of people standing in a circle watching her quietly, while she sings with a big self-confident smile on her face. It's all somewhat annoying.

In the end, Grace Chang says words I long to hear a flight attendant say once more: "Have a drink." But alas, it seems even the free cocktails, the last little bit of extra care given to passengers for their fare, has disappeared.

She goes on to explain the moral of this romantic musical, in case you missed it: "It's comfortable, fun, and also safe to take the plane." Let's flying!

[The quality of the Panorama DVD is not very satisfying, with background colors occasionally "strobing" in a distracting, headache-inducing way.]

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on December 05, 2005.

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