Cast: Tahar Rahim, Corrine Yam, Jalil Lespert, Vincent Rottiers, Sifan Shao, Patrick Mille, Songwen Zhang, Adèle Ado
Director: Lou Ye
Runtime: 1 hr 40 mins
Released By: Festive Films and Cathay-Keris Films
Official Website: http://www.facebook.com/loveandbruises.lefilm
Opening Day: 5 May 2012
Synopsis: Hua, a young teacher from Beijing,is a recent arrival in Paris. Exiled in an unknown city, she wanders between her tiny apartment and the university, drifting between former lovers and recent French acquaintances. She meets Mathieu, a young worker who falls madly in love with her. Possessed by an insatiable desire for her body, he treats Hua like a dog. An intense affair begins, marked by Mathieu’s passionate embraces and harsh verbal abuse. When Hua determines to leave her lover, she discovers the strength of her addiction, and the vital role he has come to play in her life as a woman..
Paris isn’t exactly the city of lights and love in Mainland Chinese filmmaker Lou Ye’s eyes, as you’d find out after watching his latest work. Known for his controversial films like Summer Palace (2006) and Spring Fever (2009), the Shanghai born who is commonly grouped with the Sixth Generation directors of Chinese cinema is no stranger with the Chinese censors, who have repeatedly banned him from filmmaking. In his first foreign language film, Lou tackles what he knows best – how gritty and ugly love can get.
Based on Jie Liu Falin’s novel, the film takes place in Paris. A female student from Beijing, who has just gotten dumped by her French boyfriend, bumps into a local construction worker and the two eventually have a night of rough sex. They begin meeting regularly for sex, and she eventually gets to know his friends. When one of them rapes her one day, she begins suspecting whether she has been set up. After further misunderstandings and secrets, she has to make a decision whether to stay with him or move back to Bejing to her former life.
Viewers familiar with Lou’s works would not be expecting questions to be answered in this raw and hypnotic production. Instead of characters engaging in substantial dialogue, what you’d get are the dreamy protagonists wandering from place to place, looking lost and forlorn, and not forgetting having lots of sex. Though not as graphic and intense as Lou’s last two films, there is quite a bit of lovemaking scenes here to have our friends from the regulatory board slapping the film with a R21 rating.
This is definitely not your usual mainstream movie. The niche art house crowd would find solace in discovering how viscerally intense a love story can get, as well as how a fine a line it is between love and lust. For those who are specifically looking out for the sex scenes, let’s just say it is not your glamourous Hollywood shot sequences with soft lighting and beautiful people in focus. This isn’t the easiest film to sit through and watch, but we are assuming with a title like “Love and Bruises”, you can’t be expecting a wholesome romantic movie with a happy ending.
Be warned – the 100 minute film’s production values are not what you usually get from a mainstream movie. Yu Lik Wai’s handheld cinematography isn’t made any visually appealing with natural lights, while Juliette Welfing’s editing may leave you dumbfounded with the protagonists’ loss and frustrations. Peyman Yasdanian composes an unobtrusive score which lingers in the background, echoing the characters’ emotions. Brought together, this creates the unstable sentiments experienced by the long suffering protagonists.
Played by Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) and newcomer Corrine Yam, one must admit that these characters are not the easiest to portray in an actor’s career. Rahim, with his likeable demeanor, manages to play the almost detestable male lead who seems to be only interested in physical pleasures and abusive behaviour. On the other hand, Yam, who looks vulnerable on the surface, also has a tough task of playing what most would believe is the victim of this sado masochistic relationship.
Lou makes it clear that this is not going to be a pleasurable watch, but he makes sure that it is a honestly brutal look at how unattractively dreadful love can become.
(The bleak art house film may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it does give a glimpse into the gutters of an unconventional relationship)
Review by John Li