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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>
Liu Ye and Hun Jun worked on their rapport only four times before production, playing basketball (of which Liu at 6-foot-1 was a star player at school) and dining. They spent time with their respective girlfriend and wife present, to clarify their romance will only be fictional. See more »
Sad, happy, honest and typically, tragically Chinese
I went to see "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" with a young Chinese man who said to me, as if I didn't know this, "Of course it has a tragic ending. It's Chinese!" That awakening, plus seeing the movie in a Chinese filled theatre, taught me something. I rented "Lan Yu" expecting a Chinese movie. I didn't get one. There were no intense cultural overtones, just references. Mao, Tiannimen Square, Russians, yes. The matriarch's New Year's dinner was the closest thing to Chinese culture. But, of course, Beijing and Hong Kong are cosmopolitan. The plot even makes fun of Lan Yu being thrust into the city from the country.
I put this movie in the category of "Parting Glances," "Steam," and "Love, Valor, Compassion," definitely not "Philadelphia." That's a high compliment for me. I've seen boring, "go for the audience impact" Gay movies. This isn't one, thank goodness. It's a love story with the complexity of approach/avoidance conflict, embraced by friends who are straight, even though the story is about Gay love. And it's about one-sided love, growing love, fearing the loss of love, committment anxiety, and all that, the same as in straight relationships. It has acceptance and tolerance and is totally devoid of sneers from the homophobic thrown in to thicken the plot.
The character development is a little sparse, but actually we learn about them quickly. There's no long wind up. Skillful! The character depth is what grows. Lan Yu grows. His lover doesn't, until it's too late.
The direction and photography were subtly superb. I didn't catch on until far into the film how good the photography was and placement of the characters. The acting was excellent -- or was it their direction?
How interesting that the clearly more submissive character is the stronger one.
Did those who hated this movie notice all of that, or are they jaded? I wouldn't like to be at a play or movie with them.
Wonderful movie. I cried. I laughed. I'm still feeling it. Very few movies do that to me.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful.
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