THIS JOURNAL DOCUMENTS MY INTAKE OF ONE BOOK, ZINE, CD OR DVD A DAY. RATINGS ARE: ***** = Godhead, **** = Great, *** = Good, ** = Fair, * = Why Bother?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Lost in Beijing (***)

Ping Guo (Lost in Beijing)
China, 2007, 112 minutes
Directed by Lu Yi
Cast: Tony Leung Ka Fai, Fan Bingbing, Tong Dawai, Elaine Jin
Plot: A look at modern-day life in China's capital centered on a ménage-a-quatre involving a young woman, her boss, her husband and her boss's wife.

After the graphic sex of the opening half hour, I didn't think I'd like this film - it seemed ugly and misogynist - and I regretted recommending it to a Chinese woman at work (I was hoping it didn't shock her and her husband). But I stuck it out and I'm glad I did, as it is a really impressive film from Lu Yi, whose two earlier films I must seek out. The acting is top-notch, especially Tony Leung Ka Fai - Hong Kong's "Big Tony" as distinguished from "Little Tony" Leung Chiu Wai (2046, In the Mood for Love) - who gives a career-defining performance, and Fan Bingbing, who represents a true discovery for Chinese cinema. Reportedly the director got such great performances out of her actors by instructing them simply to "walk and talk like human beings." Works for me. I also loved the cinematography, especially a section in the middle of the film that is a wordless montage of scenes from the city. Stylistic flourishes like this abound in Yi's film, which utilizes many techniques - the hand-held camera during a shower sex scene, the blurred in-and-out-of-focus lens work to depict Fan Binbing's drunken perspective during the rape scene, the beautifully composed Ozu-like still shots of couple Fan Bingbing and Tong Dawai eating in silence while gazing at the Beijing cityscape.

Anyway, I'm tired so here's Wikipedia to do my lazy bidding on the rest.

Lost in Beijing (Chinese: 苹果; literally "apple") is a 2007 Chinese film directed by Li Yu and starring Fan Bingbing, Tong Dawei, Tony Leung Ka Fai, and Elaine Jin. It had its international premiere at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival on February 16, 2007. Lost in Beijing is director Li Yu's third feature film after the lesbian-themed Fish and Elephant (2002) and the drama Dam Street (2005).

Lost in Beijing was produced by Laurel Films, a small independent production company owned by Fang Li and based in Beijing,[1] and is being released internationally by the French company Film Distribution.[2] Distribution in the United States was picked up by New Yorker Films.[3]

Like many films that touch on the underbelly of Chinese society (see for example, Li Yang's Blind Shaft or Blind Mountain, or Wang Xiaoshuai's Beijing Bicycle), Li Yu's tale of prostitution, blackmail, and rape in modern-day Beijing has been plagued with censorship problems. The film also found controversy for what some critics described as "thumb-nosing gratuitous sex scenes."[4] After nearly a year of delays, the film was finally banned by Chinese authorities in January 2008. However, as noted by Time, Chinese citizens have managed to view the film online, along with the uncut versions of two other sexually-explicit films, Lust, Caution directed by Ang Lee and Summer Palace, directed by Lou Ye.[5]

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