Mainland China's first AIDS-related pic, "Love for Life" is an anemic mess, notwithstanding stars Zhang Ziyi and Aaron Kwok (neither inspired) and rising helmer Gu Changwei.

Mainland China’s first AIDS-related pic, “Love for Life” is an anemic mess, notwithstanding stars Zhang Ziyi and Aaron Kwok (neither inspired) and rising helmer Gu Changwei. It’s possible the original 2 1/2-hour conception was more coherent, but the current version feels chopped up and assembled by multiple editors with limited communication skills. Set in a remote northern Chinese village, the pic functions as neither AIDS tale nor love story, and with a dead 12-year-old boy narrating and several risible sex scenes, the target audience is unclear. Even most fests will steer clear.

Narrator Xin (Guo Zetao) died from AIDS, like many infected when his unscrupulous father (Pu Cunxi) sold the town tainted blood. Even the asymptomatic isolate themselves in a school, including uncle Deyi (Kwok). Forlorn Qinqin (Zhang) arrives kicked out by husband Xiao Hai (Cai Guoqing), and she and Deyi fall in love. Villagers succumb as if AIDS is the bubonic plague, and the script, far from demystifying the disease, is tonally all over the place. Zhang’s red clothes set her apart but, like the attractive visuals from lensers Yang Tao and Christopher Doyle, aren’t meaningfully integrated into the story.

Love for Life

China

Production

A Stellar Mega Films, Hing Lung Worldwide Group, Beijing Harmony & Harvest Media, Beijing Forbidden City Film, Pioneer TV & Movie Prod. of Chengdu Media Group production. (International sales: Edko Films, Hong Kong.) Produced by Gu Changwei, Chen Xiaodong. Executive producers, Qin Hong, Bill Kong, Ma Hefeng, Zhang Qiang, He Bing. Directed by Gu Changwei. Screenplay, Yan Laoshi, Yang Weiwei, Gu Changwei.

Crew

Camera (color), Yang Tao, Christopher Doyle; editor, Li Dianshi; music, Zuoxiao Zuzhou; production designers, Wang Weiyuan, Han Dahai; costume designer, Zhang Yongyi. Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (competing), Nov. 1, 2011. Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Zhang Ziyi, Aaron Kwok, Pu Cunxi, Jiang Wenli, Sun Haiying, Tao Zeru, Wang Baoqiang, Cai Guoqing, Li Jianhua, Li Danyang, Jiang Wen, Feng Xiaogang, Lu Chuan, Guo Yongzhang, Guo Zetao. (Mandarin dialogue)

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