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When a leprous winery owner in 1930s China dies a few days after his arranged marriage, his young widow is forced to run the winery to make a living while contending with bandits, her drunkard lover, and the invading Japanese army.
Zhao is an aging bachelor who hasn't been lucky in love. Thinking he has finally met the woman of his dreams, Zhao leads her to believe he is wealthy and agrees to a wedding far beyond his means. Zhao's best friend Li hatches the idea to raise the money by refurbishing an abandoned bus, which they will rent out by the hour--the Happy Times Hotel--to young couples starved for privacy. Unfortunately, this plan goes awry because Zhao is too old fashioned to allow the couples to leave the bus door closed. Meanwhile, Zhao's fiancee introduces him to her spoiled son and beautiful blind stepdaughter Wu Ying, whom she sees as a burden. To be rid of the girl, she insists that Zhao take her to the Happy Times Hotel and give her a job. Zhao reluctantly agrees, then creates a series of deceptions to keep the girl occupied, including setting her up as a masseuse and enlisting his friends to pretend to be her customers. Everything that is happening between Zhao and Wu is superficially about ...Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Has two endings. The first, a shorter one, is not well received in its China screenings. Zhang Yimou subsequently shot a longer ending after its China release for international distribution. See more »
SPOILER: In the original China-released ending, Zhao is not involved in a car accident. He writes a letter as the girl's dad and reads it to her as the lights dim and the credits roll. This ending is available in certain DVD releases. See more »
Yimau Zhang takes us along for a ride to explore how things seem to have changed in China. The country has given a step forward into the modern age as it shakes off its rigid past, adopting new ways in doing things. In fact, the country appears to have developed its own take on capitalism, as we watch a new prosperous, and aggressive China, transformed in ways we had not envisioned before. Mr. Zhang's film is an allegory about his country.
The main idea in the film is how Zhao, a factory worker, sets his eyes on a plump and attractive woman to get married. The woman, in turn, has her own ideas of what to expect from this man who lies to her and makes himself pass for a hotel manager. Thinking this is the case, the lady friend proposes he employs her stepdaughter, a blind girl that has been abandoned by her father, who has decamped to another city.
Zhao, who wants to keep the girlfriend happy, decides to take Wu Ying to work at his hotel, which in reality is a bus, that he and his buddy have converted in a lovers' motel, in a park. But before he can do anything, Zhao watches in horror as how some cleaning crews are taking his livelihood away because they are beautifying the area. Zhao is stuck with Wu Ying, so he takes her to his own humble apartment.
Zhao and his friends from the factory devise a plan to convert space in the dilapidated building a massage parlor so that the blind girl can work. The only thing, there are no clients, and only Zhao's friends are enrolled to tip the young woman using Zhao's own money.
The film is a delightful comedy about how being entrepreneurial backfires on the well intentioned man. The blind girl, Wu Ying, knows much more than what Zhao and the rest give her credit for, and unfortunately, everything ends badly, except for the blind girl, who recognizes the kindness of his mentor, who doesn't get to know first hand of her gratitude because fate intervenes.
"Happy Times" is a charming film that works thanks to the light touch by the director. Benshan Zhao, who has been seen in other Chinese films is excellent in the role of Zhao. Jie Dong plays Wu Ying with conviction and Lifan Dong, is the stepmother, who discovers the duplicity of her would be husband.
Recommended to all Yimou Zhang's fans who might have missed its commercial run.
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