By Leah Rozen
April 27, 1998 12:00 PM

Jeremy Irons, Gong Li

The passing of Hong Kong from British into Chinese hands last year provides the backdrop for this arty, intimate drama. Irons, a business journalist with a fatal illness, can’t get over his unfulfilled love for Li (see page 135), the dissatisfied mistress of a businessman who’s busy lining up power lunches under the new rule. With a nose for a good story, Irons is also on the trail of a mysterious, scar-faced young woman (Maggie Cheung) he glimpses on the street. These fragile connections are sketched in delicately—much too delicately—by director Wayne Wang (a native of Hong Kong). Given the enormous historic framework, it’s like watching three blind mice scurrying before a tornado. (R)

Bottom Line: Too small a package