Review: ‘Your Black Hair and My Hand’

The enigmatic title doesn't come close to conveying the impenetrable nature of "Your Black Hair and My Hand," which tells parallel stories, both of them incoherent, of two young couples, both of them incoherent.

The enigmatic title doesn’t come close to conveying the impenetrable nature of “Your Black Hair and My Hand,” which tells parallel stories, both of them incoherent, of two young couples, both of them incoherent. Leading actor Winston Chao, Taiwanese star of breakthrough hit “The Wedding Banquet,” is unlikely to hit many international screens with this oblique musing on the impact of chance encounters, which marks a distancing bow for 27-year-old mainland Chinese commercials director Lee Xin.

Pic was partially financed by the Basque government’s Euskal Media Prize, which is split between director and producer. In 1993, the $ 200,000 award went to mainland Chinese helmer Ning Ying’s “For Fun,” and was channeled into Ning’s follow-up, “On the Beat,” and this film, Lee’s debut.

Mixing dreams and reality, the stories are framed by the coffee-bar conversations of a group of friends. They recount the meeting of modern warrior Rong and Min, who faces humiliation when she is unable to pay a taxi fare one

night. He takes on both the driver and the angry mob that surrounds them, and begins romancing the secretive girl. When her wealthy father dies suddenly, Rong swears to be both husband and parent to her. But after their wedding and three days of sex, Min vanishes.

The second story concerns Youge, who falls for her boss, Wenshan (Chao), after an encounter in an elevator. A relationship develops and she becomes pregnant, but complications arise because he’s married. What little semblance there is of a logical narrative disappears entirely in the final section, when Youge moves houses and has to deal with the insistent attentions of a downstairs neighbor.

Director Lee’s focus would appear to be the strain of contemporary relationships, but the treatment remains abstract and uninvolving. The complex structuring, stylized visuals (by Pan Feng, reportedly the only female d.p.

working in China) and elaborate editing are not short on inventiveness, but here they only aggravate the frustrating lack of clarity. Pic’s Chinese title roughly translates as “Love Talk.”

Your Black Hair and My Hand

Hong Kong - Chinese

Production

A Vanke Films Co. (Hong Hong)/Shanghai Film Studio (China) production, in association with Euskal Media, Whole Fine's Enterprise. (International sales: China Film Export & Import Corp., Beijing.) Produced by Zhu Yongde, Zheng Kainan, Gao Qingfeng. Directed by Lee Xin. Screenplay, Zhang Xian, Lee.

Crew

Camera (color), Pan Feng; editor, Xu Dong, Zhu Peipei; music, Shu Junjie; art direction, Xiang Haiming; costume design, Zhao Yinwo; sound, James Zhan. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Open Zone), Sept. 25, 1996. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Winston Chao, Shang Haiming, Wang Yanan, Chen Nan, Guo Xiao.
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