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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Lan Yu
Lan Yu
Ventura // R // April 8, 2003
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Don Houston | posted June 14, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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Movie: Love stories are among the oldest recorded cinematic experiences, mirroring our preoccupation with this aspect of our desires. All of us want someone to love who will love us back in return-this is documented in various cultures written histories as far back as several thousand years ago. One would think love were easy to obtain since we all seek it out but the reality is that love is much more complicated than it would appear at first glance. As society goes increasingly complex, all the extraneous things that interfere with love seem to get in the way, including our own mindsets. Such is the theme in the gay romance, Lan Yu.

The movie focuses on a young Chinese college student in Beijing who is strapped for cash. In order to make ends meet (no pun intended), he sleeps with a wealthy businessman for money. As time progresses, the two become bonded in more than just a business relationship with plenty of bumps along the way. In essence, the story strips away a lot of the complexities of love as much as looks at it from a unique perspective, that of Chinese gay men in a politically unstable time.

The backdrop of the movie is around the events of the Tianamen Square Massacre, before which the Chinese government had been opening up to various forms of capitalism. In a crackdown to stifle the emergence of all the ills of capitalism, including freer speech and political instability, dozens of students and others were killed or imprisoned. The movie uses this as a plot device to prove the relationship was more than one sided which is reaffirmed in the other direction later on, when the fortunes turn on the other partner.

I liked the overall performances of the leads and supporting cast. They truly conveyed the emotional attachments (and detachments) necessary to make the movie believable. While done in a typically stoic Chinese fashion, the subtle glances and facial expressions spoke louder than words more often than not. It means a viewer must pay more attention, particularly since you have to watch subtitles at the same time, but it's worth the extra effort.

As the movie progressed, it did hit some snags where the script and/or direction wasn't up to the concept but most of the complaints in that regard were minor. I thought the subject matter, made especially difficult due to the nature of the relationship itself, was handled well. Not a classic movie but certainly a good one, worth a rating of Recommended.

Picture: The picture was presented in 1.85:1 ratio Widescreen as originally shot. The colors were generally accurate although the lighting sometimes weakened them as well as added grain to the show. A few moments of softness on the picture were noticed too but the overall picture was above average. There were a couple of compression artifacts and some print scratches but otherwise it looked good.

Sound: The sound was presented in 2 channel stereo with decent amounts of separation between the channels. The score was very well done and the vocals quite clear, if minimal. I noticed no problems with the audio worth mentioning.

Extras: The best extra was the interview with Director Stanley Kwan for the Sundance Channel. He spoke about becoming a director as well as some provided some insight into the movie itself. The other extra was a few trailers. No inserts were discovered in the dvd case.

Final Thoughts: I liked this one and think anyone not really homophobic might see beyond that aspect of the movie. While it's not great art, it was entertaining and the themes were common enough that a larger audience would appreciate the acting and direction. I think it's worth recommending and was better than Beautiful Thing, a movie with similar themes.

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