LAN YU (Mandarin)

  Publicity Stills of "Lan Yu"
(Courtesy from Festive Films)


Cannes Film festival 2001
Nominated Un certain regard – Official Selection

Golden Horse Film Festival, 2001
Won Golden Horse Award Best Actor, Ye Liu
Golden Horse Award Best Director, Stanley Kwan
Golden Horse Award Best Editing, William Chang
Golden Horse Award Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Source, Jimmy Ngai

Hong Kong Film Awards, 2002
Nominated Hong Kong Film Award Best Director, Stanley Kwan
Nominated Hong Kong Film Award Best Actor, Jun Hu
Nominated Hong Kong Film Award Best Actor, Ye Liu
Nominated Hong Kong Film Award Best Art Direction, William Chang
Nominated Hong Kong Film Award Best Cinematography, Tao Yang & Jian Zhang
Nominated Hong Kong Film Award Best Costume & Make Up Design, William Chang
Nominated Hong Kong Film Award Best Film Editing, William Chang
Nominated Hong Kong Film Award Best Original Film Score, Ya-Dong Zhang
Nominated Hong Kong Film Award Best Picture, Yongning Zhang (executive producer) & Siu Wai Kwan (executive producer)
Nominated Hong Kong Film Award Best Screenplay, Jimmy Ngai
Nominated Hong Kong Film Award Best Supporting Actress, Jin Su

Genre: Drama
Director: Stanley Kwan
Starring: Hu Jun, Liu Ye, Su Jin
RunTime: 1 hr 26 mins
Released By: Festive Films
Rating: R21

Opening Day: 13 October 2005


Beijing, 1988. On the cusp of middle-age, Chen Handong has known little but success all his life. He heads a fast-growing trading company and plays as hard as he works. Lan Yu is a country boy, newly arrived in Beijing to study architecture. He meets Handong in a Pool-hall and ends-up experiencing a life-changing sexual initiation. Handong and Lan Yu meet often, and the boy is soon very secure in his love for the man. But Handong insists that he wants a play-mate, not a lifelong companion, and warns Lan Yu that they will eventually break up.

Movie Review:

Once in a while, there are films that are produced to create or spark controversy. These films often employ the topic of violence (think “Irreversible” (2002), “Fight Club” (1999), “Saw” (2004)) and the theme of sex (think “Swimming Pool”(French)(2003), “Jan Dara
(Thai)(2001), “The Dreamers” (French) (2003)) to titillate the audience. But few directors have ever dared to breach social taboos as directors who produce films on homosexuality have.

Following from Wong Kar Wai’s “ Happy Together” (1997), veteran director Stanley Kwan (“Everlasting Regret” (2005)) came up with “Lan Yu”(2001), a film building on the same theme of homosexuality. These time round, in lieu of familiar faces from the Hong Kong film industry (such as Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu Wai in “Happy Together”), Stanley has roped in a China cast, with thespians Hu Jun and Liu Ye leading the pack as a pair of star-crossed lovers enmeshed in a web of forbidden passion.

While “Happy Together” focuses on trivial altercations between the two male lovers, “Lan Yu” builds on the gradual development of love. The latter shines in this aspect, depicting the relationship of the two men from the point of acquaintanceship to the point of forging an initial friendship and ultimately, their plunge into a deep passion of love.

Hu Jun plays Handong, a rich business socialite who has a strong affection for men, a fascination that few know about. One day, he chances upon a young lad Lan Yu (Liu Ye) who will do anything as he’s short of cash. Seizing the opportunity, Handong agrees to complete the transaction with Lan Yu: cash in exchange for a night of rough bed rumble. Soon after, Lan Yu fell in love with Handong, without knowing that their union is the start of a tragedy.

The Chinese term “Lan Yu” can be translated literally into the English equivalent of a blue universe. The director employs this term to great effect in the film by using blue as the motif, exuding a certain calm and serene effect on the viewers. This probably signifies the lead character Lan Yu’s state of mind as the film progresses.

Liu Ye portrays Lan Yu beautifully as the lover who seeks to hold on to his love as tightly as he could, despite knowing that he cannot avoid the inevitable. Being the softer character of the two, he uses longing looks and soft hugs in place of words to carry the message across to the audiences, which I find to be an exceptionally powerful form of non-verbal expression.

An especially poignant scene will be one where Lan Yu lies on top of Handong while gently nibbling on his neck, and subsequently exclaiming that Handong’s shirt has a button missing. Liu Ye's lovey-dovey albeit melancholy expression powerfully cements him as one of the best actors that have come of age.

Be it the cinematography or the story, “Lan Yu” will be able to stand alone on its own merits . Stanley Kwang has managed to craft a love story (supposedly based on an Internet novel that spans 10 chapters) to near perfection. However, he has toned down the political aspects of the story and up the ante on the romantic development between the two leads. This turns out be the right choice as the film really shines.

However, what makes this an excellent piece of filmmaking is more than that. It lies in the fact that director Stanley Kwang is able to successfully portray homosexual love as similar to heterosexual love. And more remarkably, he accomplishes this by downplaying homoeroticism and accentuating more on character development. By doing this, he is able to naturalise a homosexual relationship and weaving it seamlessly into the social fabrics of society.

Homosexualism has always been a sensitive topic in conservative Asia. This film might just enable the audience to realise the fact that homosexuals do share the same love tangles and emotional turmoil as heterosexuals do, thus bridging the existing gap between heterosexualism and homosexualism.

Movie Rating:

(“ A provocative film that cements love as the element that bridges the gap between heterosexualism and homosexualism.”)

Review by Patrick Tay


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