With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, February 14, 2014

BEIJING LOVE STORY opens today in limited release in North America

China Lion
Beijing Love Story
Written and directed by CHEN Sicheng
China, 2014, 122 minutes

Just in time for Valentine's day comes Beijing Love Story, a look at love, romance and commitment as experienced by five couples (in one case actually an unusual trio) of different generations. They range in age from high school students to individuals in their sixties.

The first we meet are Chen Feng, a designer who is played by the film's writer and director Chen Sicheng). While celebrating the impending marriage of a friend, Chen encounters the lovely Shen Yan (Tong Liya) at a Beijing club. They are in their mid-twenties or so. He is not well off (he rents, has no car, and is without the highly coveted Beijing residency permit. She has recently broken up with her wealthy boyfriend. Although their relationship flourishes, an unexpected development and the machinations of Shen's mother and ex- threaten to rend it asunder.

Another relationship is that of Chen's boss Wu Zheng (Wang Xuebing) who has been married for several years. While he has no desire or even inclination to leave his devoted wife Zhang Lei ((Yu Nan), he all too frequently cheats on her. When she comes upon a sex video on his phone, that relationship too is threatened with breaking up.

Liu Hui (Tony Leung Ka Fai) is a friend of Zhang's and tries to comfort her. But soon he is off to Greece for an illicit rendezvous of his own with Jia Ling (Carina Lau). But is that truly what's going on, or is Liu's wife actually aware of this little getaway?

Liu Hui's  high school aged daughter Liu Xingyang (Nana Ou Yang) plays the cello and wants to perform with the school's string ensemble on the China Dream Show. Xingyang is the object of the affections of fellow high schooler Song Ge (Liu Haoran), who has the special ability to see people's auras. Xingyang's is quite unique, of a type he's never seen before.

The last couple, or trio, consists of 66 year old "Old" Wang (Wang Qinxiang) who is going on blind dates arranged by his cousin Mrs. Gao (Siqin Gaowa). It looks like he may have finally found a companion in Xue Aija, 59, a divorcee who has returned to Beijing after living in America for the past twenty years. But here too a complication, one of a most unusual nature. arises and threatens to undo their prospects for companionship and happiness in their golden years.

The film is structured about the way lives are inter-related along the lines of such movies as Crash (2004) and Babel (2006). Thus Chen's landlord turns out to be a character who is related to yet another character. When one character takes an early morning bus, another couple, whom we have not yet met, is seated together or the same bus. Thus even in the huge metropolis of Beijing, which is often shot quite beautifully, lives that are seemingly unrelated touch each other in unexpected ways.

Chen Sicheng has done a remarkable job on this, his debut, feature film. He has captured many facets and nuances of love and relationships. Just how well the movie succeeds at depicting romance may be attested to by the fact that in real life Chen and his leading lady Tong Liya fell in love every bit as much as their on-screen characters. On January 16, 2014, they were married in Tahiti. Talk about life imitating art!

I do want to point out that there's a bravura steady-cam shot that takes place in a hospital at the end of the film. Also be sure to stick around during the credits. There's a very nice scene featuring Wu's wife discussing love with three guys that's shown in a separate window while the credits roll.

ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; highly recommended. Beijing Love Story is touching, delightful and peppered with humorous touches.

Beijing Love Story is  to open today in the following locations. Check local listings.

- DC Area: AMC Loews Rio (Gaithersburg)
- Los Angeles: AMC Atlantic Times Square 14 (Monterey Park)
- an additional Los Angeles area location for the 14th is likely to be added
- New York: AMC Empire 25 (Manhattan)
- San Francisco/San Jose Area: Camera 12 Cinemas (San Jose)
- an additional San Francisco proper location for the 14th is likely to be added
- Toronto: Cineplex Odeon Yonge Dundas
- Vancouver: SilverCity Riverport