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Saturday, August 21, 2010

YIHE YUAN / SUMMER PALACE (2006)


This much-lauded coming-of-age story from Lou Ye is an enormous disappointment. No doubt, being banned in Beijing is a plus on the international film circuit, but this is yet another ‘Sixth Generation’ Chinese film that uses Tianeman Square as a catalyst for a love affair. This time it’s young heterogeneous university students who conflate sexual freedom with political freedom and we follow their explicit bedroom scenes as they fall in & out of love, go their separate ways, and meet again decades later. It’s stale stuff even played out in a new environment and Lou Ye shows neither the technical control to refresh his material nor a convincing late-‘80s Beijing. (The nightlife & music seem off by a good decade.) But the main problem lies with the girl in the case; one of those self-dramatizing hysterical manic-depressive clinging types. More stalker than lover. Titles at the end of the film bring us up to date on these fictional people, but make no mention of her translating THE BELL JAR into Mandarin.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Try a Wong Kar Wei film you've missed for a modern Chinese romance with socio-political elements and all the cinematic trimmings you could want.

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