Directed by Stanley Kwan. Hong Kong. 2001.

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Lan Yu, directed by Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan, is melodrama on the rocks with a gay twist. Based on the Internet novel Beijing Story, in Beijing in 1988, a middle-aged businessman Chen Handong (Jun Hu) picks up a young architecture student Lan Yu (Ye Liu) for some quick sex but neither anticipates the messy business of emotional involvement. Handong is a partner in a trading company and lavishes expensive gifts on the boy who begins to feel an attachment to him. The older man is very cautious, however, and tells the boy, "When two people get to know each other too well, it's time to separate".

Handong decides to marry Jingping, a professional translator but the marriage fails and Handong goes back to Lan Yu. Their plans for a long-term commitment are thwarted, however, when Handong faces imprisonment as a result of his business' use of shady tactics to remain afloat during a period of market instability after Tiananmen Square. Handong turns to Lan Yu for financial help and both acknowledge their love for each other but the relationship that has survived for nine years is now up against the inexorability of fate. If this sounds to you like a Chinese version of Love Story, you would not be far off. Lan Yu takes us on an emotional roller coaster but does not explore much depth of feelings or insight. Though the film is honest in dealing with fear of commitment, I found the characters uninteresting and the relationship lacking authenticity. Mr. Kwan is to be commended for the courage it took to shoot this film in Beijing without official Government approval, but the film's sketchiness and predictability rob it of any enduring power.

Howard Schumann
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