Saturday, March 31, 2007
Summer Palace (颐和园)
"Summer Palace" (颐和园) is the newest film from acclaimed Chinese director Lou Ye (娄烨). The film tells a sexually charged love story between two students at
Beijing University (北京大学) (it's actually called "Beiqing University" (北清大学) in the film) with the backdrop of the
Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
Lou Ye submitted this film to the 2006 Cannes Film Festival as the only entry from China but without the approval from the Chinese government. As a result, Lou Ye is banned from making film in China for five years.
I don't know if the decision of bypassing the Chinese government is due to the touchy subject about the 6.4 incident. If it is, it's totally not worth it. Because the Tiananmen Square protests contribute little if anything at all to the love story of the two main characters. If the script was rewritten without any mentioning of the 6.4 incident, but just the relationship of the characters, it could have been a better film with a more focused narrative. It's what's interesting in this film anyway.
Like the characters in other Lou's films, Yu Hong is not an ordinary Chinese girl (actually the character is a Korean Chinese). She is a determined, butch, highly sexed college student, although we definitely see her have sex more than study. Scratch that. I have never seen her study in this film. Her desire is over powering everything, and all she does is to screw around, and to smoke, which is very rare for a female college student in China.
It's intriguing to see the relationship between the characters playing out over more than a decade from Beijing to Berlin. This is probably why the actors look too old to be college students at the beginning of the film, although they surely seem more experienced in bed than any college student from Beijing University.
The images are dark. The sound track reminds me so much of the music in the French film "Blue" ("Trois Couleurs: Bleu"), and the sex in this film echoes "The Dreamers." Is this really a Chinese film after all?
My rating: 6 out of 10.