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Saturday, August 14, 2010

LAN YU (2001)

This Beijing-based story from Stanley Kwan is a romantic chamber-piece about a thirty-something businessman with a penchant for ethics-skirting international deals and non-committal sex with college types. A close call during the Tiannmen Square democracy protests makes him rethink his priorities, but he still bails on the current love of his life to marry a charming, age & class appropriate businesswoman. But both his marriage & his deals go sour. Now divorced, he’s in serious financial & legal trouble when he realizes his mistakes. Reconciliation, legal redemption (via a bribe) and a tragic shock to the system follow. But the kicker to this rather predictable tale is that, with the exception of the failed marriage, it’s a gay-themed film; and a frankly frontal one. Three or four taboos are in play: official bribery, Tiannmen Square, candid sex, homosexuality. How’d Kwan get this past the censors? It’s handsomely made, though Kwan can be vague over details that don’t interest him, but the acting is very fine even if you have qualms about using Tiannmen Sq, as a lovers’ linchpin. And without the gay angle, it’s hackneyed stuff. More interesting is contemplating how this BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN/FAR FROM HEAVEN number played in its homeland. Kwan didn’t release another pic for half a decade, never a good sign.

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