Mainland Chinese helmer Lou Ye’s debut feature, “Weekend Lover,” is a story of rivalry for a young girl’s affection that doubles as a desolate summation of the brutalized, directionless state of Shanghai adolescents. Perhaps because of its bleak vision of metropolitan youth culture, the independent production was blocked by government censors after its completion in early 1994. Released only recently, the film looks likely to remain a minor festival curio.
A romantic, lost-innocence melodrama laced with a violent undercurrent, the story centers on A Xi (Jia Hongsheng), who is imprisoned for nine years after killing another kid. Following his release, he tracks down his teen flame, Li Xin (Ma Xiaoqin), who has since become involved with another boy, La La (Wang Zhiwen).
What follows is basically a series of edgy encounters, building up to a dramatic face-off between the duelling contenders for Li Xin’s love. Much of the story is narrated by an additional character, Chen Chen (Nai An, who also gets a producer credit), whose role in the proceedings is never made completely clear.
The script is loose and excessively convoluted, borrowing from Western narrative models but failing to establish much of an emotional connection with the characters. Comparable material arguably was given more interesting treatment in Zhang Yuan’s “Beijing Bastards.”
Lou nonetheless directs with energy and some bold stylistic touches, and the film is an assured effort technically. Fellow Chinese indie director Wang Xiaoshuai (“The Days”) makes an effective appearance as a musician in the band La La joins.