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Beijing, 1988. On the cusp of middle-age, Chen Handong has known little but success all his life. The eldest son of a senior government bureaucrat, he heads a fast-growing trading company and plays as hard as he works. Few know that Handong's tastes run more to boys than girls. Lan Yu is a country boy, newly arrived in Beijing to study architecture. More than most students, he is short of money and willing to try anything to earn some. He has run into Liu Zheng, who pragmatically suggests that he could prostitute himself for one night to a gay pool-hall and bar owner. But Handong happens to be in the pool hall that evening, and he nixes the deal. He takes Lan Yu home himself and gives the young man what turns out to be a life-changing sexual initiation. Handong and Lan Yu meet often, and the boy is soon very secure in his love for the man. But Handong insists that he wants a play-mate, not a lifelong companion, and warns Lan Yu that they will eventually break up. Meanwhile, he showers... Written by
Strand Releasing <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Director Stanley Kwan auditioned more than 100 actors in both China and Hong Kong for two months, finally deciding on Ye Liu based on a photo given by Liu's assistant director from his debut _Postmen in the Mountains (1999)_. See more »
Generally I'm not a big fan of melodrama, and LAN YU is a classic, Sirk-league piece of melodrama, so I can't say I loved this film. But it is impressive in a number of ways - the depiction of intimacy, and of a slowly-developing relationship is very well done, and this film is very obviously the work of a thoughtful and talented filmmaker. I also liked the cinematography - very un-flashy, which serves the material well: a dry, slice-of-life look which stands apart from the dramatics of the plot, and definitely underscores the normality (or validity) of gay relationships, perhaps in a culture that is still coming to terms with such relationships. The dinner scenes - which are beautifully shot and staged - stand out.
It should be noted that director Stanley Kwan has a handful of other artistically notable films to his credit, with ROUGE and ACTRESS generating acclaim around the globe. Kwan claims Hollywood melodramatist Douglas Sirk and Japanese contemporary dramatist Yasujiro Ozu as major influences, and both of those influences are apparent here
the studied, careful mis-en-scene of Ozu; and a story balanced
between social critique and three-hanky melodrama, in the fashion of Sirk. Kwan is also one of a small (but growing) number of out Asian filmmakers, and noting this (and his artistic influences) helps to understand the overall importance of this film.
If some of the most creative and engaging gay film being made today is coming from Asia, Europe and Latin America - which I believe to be true
then this film is definitely among the best of that wave. Worth a
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