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Lin Dong and Wang Mei are a childless couple in Beijing, wealthy, approaching middle age. Lin owns a foot-massage parlor. One afternoon he rapes one of his workers, Liu Pingguo, who has nearly passed out from drinking alcohol with a friend. Part of the assault is witnessed by Liu's husband, An Kun, a window washer. He's angry with the boss and with his wife, and he seeks compensation. Lin's wife counsels him and joins in revenge. Then, Liu realizes she's pregnant and a set of emotional calculations ensues: Lin wants to buy the child, Wang agrees but has conditions, An Kun goes back and forth and barely contains his anger; Liu withdraws. The baby comes. Can anything be sorted out? Written by
So different from other mainland films, thank gosh
China's weird. Didn't we just learn from the Olympic Committee that there's billions of people living there? I think we did. Why then is this one of only a few films I can think of, off the top of my head, coming from there that has any semblance of lived-life-now? Lived life now under peculiar circumstances, sure, because it is a movie after all, but still. Everything else seems to be costumed drama kung fu palace historical Mao-sanctioned fantasy crap. I'm talking mainland China here. Taiwan and Hong Kong don't count. Ang Lee doesn't count. All the Chinese filmmakers making films in other parts of the world, and getting them financed and released in other parts of the world, don't countand there's the rub.
Lost in Beijing is banned in China and its filmmakers are banned for two years from making films in China. What kind of nonsensical time-out is that? I mean no disrespect to the Chinese, I just want more of them to fall through the cracks and make films like Lost in Beijingwhich is nothing like Farewell My Hero's Kingdom of Flying Yellow Flowers.
Fan Bingbing, known in the west as Bingbing Fan, stars in this film as Liu Ping Guo (Ping Guo, the Chinese title, translates literally as "Apple"), a foot massage girl who is raped by her boss (played out-of-this-worldly great by Tony Leung Ka Fai who's been in enough movies that every Chinese citizen could pick a film of his to see without any two people seeing the same filmwestern audiences may know him as the guy who has sex with Marguerite Duras in The Lover), and the rape is witnessed by her husband, a window washer who just happens to be hanging from a scaffolding washing the windows of the room at the massage parlor where the rape takes place. Foot massage is big business in China so I guess that's why this massage parlor is some kind of skyscraper that needs these scaffolded window washers, but I digress. The husband sees this as an opportunity to milk a little money from the well to do parlor owner. Lost in Beijing turns a critical eye toward the new moneyed urban class set against the rural, immigrant-in-their-own-country, if you will, working class.
Bingbing's husband confronts Tony's wife with the rape news and demands money for his pain and suffering, yes, you read that right, his pain and suffering. Tony's wife laughs at him and suggests a better revenge would be for him to have sex with her, and then in a moment of barely noticed brilliance while she's riding him cowgirl puts sunglasses on him so she can't see him looking at her.
It turns out Bingbing is pregnant and things get a little more complicated. If you complain when a film uses overly convenient plot devices to move forward you probably won't like this film as much as I do. I'm more concerned with the caliber of the characters. All four of the main performances in Lost in Beijing are magnificent. (Tony's relationship with, and handling of, his over sized wallet/day-planner is hilarious, as is his response of randomly checking the top of his head for bald spots when he's busted for trying to use a mirror to peek at Bingbing in the shower.) The direction is good and the camera-work creative, sometimes a little too creative to the point where I got dizzy a couple times so I'm deducting a point for that. Beijing is the backdrop here, captured in all its beautiful gray and desolate self.
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