Lost In Beijing

Lost In Beijing


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Watching Yu Li’s assured follow up to Dam Street (2005), one wonders whether the problems it faced from Chinese censors - who had threatened to cut it substantially before it screened in Berlin (thankfully, an unfulfilled wish) - are less to do with some of the sex scenes they had issues with and more to do with the bleak portrait of modern day Beijing which she paints.

Like many cities filled with bustling commerce, it is also filled with the lost and lonely, struggling to get by. Among them are Ping Guo (Fan Bingbing) and her husband An Kun (Tong Dawei). They eke out an existence in a grotty, pokey apartment, bringing home the bacon by working in a massage parlour and as a window cleaner respectively, while all the while keeping their marriage a secret from Ping Guo’s upwardly mobile boss Lin Dong (Tony Leung Ka Fei), lest she get the push.

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An unfortunate series of events sees her get a push of a different kind from her boss and finds herself pregnant – a situation which leads to an in depth exploration of the social and ethical dilemmas which ensue. What is the real cost of a baby – emotionally, financially and morally?

While there is no attempt to underplay the sex in the film, all three incidents are very much integral to the plot and two are deliberately unsettling, thus negating any salacious aspects.

Li’s film excels in the area so richly explored by Chinese directors before her – the role of women in modern Chinese society. Here they are seen as entrepreneurial on the one hand – epitomised by the wife of Ping Guo’s boss (Elaine Jin), who at one point seems to hold all the cards - yet as little more than marital chattels on the other. Equally, the men are portrayed at crisis point. Lin Dong is thrusting in terms of business but impotent in terms of life, while An Kun wants everything now, without having to pay for it, desperately needing to feel in control at any cost, until his greed gets the better of him.

The acting is uniformly excellent, with the stars eloquently exploring the concept of being lost from different perspectives - from An Kun’s materialism to Lin Dong’s emotional vacuum.

While the dense plotting of the film, means it feels a little slow in parts – and could perhaps have done with a trim for length rather than unsuitable content – this is a small gripe about what is a very accomplished film. You sense the wheels of progress running roughshod over the fabric of Chinese society, with unfortunate consequences, as Li cements her status as a Chinese director to watch. One to look out for at festivals during the coming months.

Reviewed on: 16 May 2007
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Lost In Beijing packshot
Sex and consequences in modern Beijing.
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Director: Yu Li

Writer: Yu Li, Li Fang

Starring: Fan Bingbing, Tong Dawei, Tony Leung Ka Fei, Elaine Jin, Zeng Mei Hui Zi

Year: 2007

Runtime: 112 minutes

Country: China


Tribeca 2007

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