Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

For a progressive Chinese filmmaker, who learnt his craft in the underground music video scene, Zhang Yang is surprisingly traditional. Scripted by a group of young writers, which includes the director, Shower appears nostalgic for the old ways, interpreting modernity as selfish and dysfunctional, rather than sympathetic and inclusive.

You can read too much into political metaphors perhaps, although they lie scattered throughout this story of an ancient Beijing bath house, supervised by Master Liu and his mentally defective son, Liu Er Ming. The building is under sentence of the bulldozer to make way for highrise housing.

Master Liu's eldest son, Liu Da Ming, returns from the Shenzhen developement region when he hears, wrongly as it turns out, that his father has died. Their clash of personalities reflects the problem capitalist economics is having with the remnants of communist idealism.

Master Liu cares for his customers. His only ambition is to serve them well and make Er Ming happy. He finds Da Ming humourless and stiff, partly, you assume, because he has rejected his father's simple ways and left home to make money, get married, live in an apartment and wear a suit.

The film grows larger as it unfolds, larger in heart, and the messages it leaves on the walls of your consciousness are not political, but sentimental in the best sense.

The old men who come to the bath house share a loneliness that is alleviated by garrulous friendship. Er Ming, with his childish emotions, is accepted by all as part of the family and Jiang Wu's performance is exceptional by any standards.

Chinese cinema is in the middle of a renaissance. As a radical newcomer, Zhang Yang shows remarkable humility and considerable understanding of the human spirit.

Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2001
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The traditions of a Beijing bathhouse come under threat from modern Chinese attitudes.
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Director: Zhang Yang

Writer: Liu Fen Dou, Zhang Yang, Huo Xin, Diao Yi Nan, Cai Xiang Jun

Starring: Zhu Xu, Pu Cun Xin, Jiang Wu

Year: 1999

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: China


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