(Mandarin Chinese dialogue)
Amoderately steamy, borderline arty meller about a self-centered gigolo’s money-and-babes lifestyle, “Drowning” finally sinks under the weight of trying to impress on too many levels. Pic mostly is a curio item for Sinophiles interested in the current limits of what’s acceptable in Mainland filmmaking, and as a reflection of the country’s current commercialization. Foreign sales look meager.
Made in 1993, Hu Xueyang’s movie reportedly was banned for some time, presumably because of its sex scenes (sweaty by Mainland standards) and only mild condemnation of its amoral central character. Also known under the English title “The Drowned Youth,” it opened in early ’95 in China and preemed internationally at this year’s Hawaii festival.
Hu himself plays Luo (nicknamed Tony), a gold-digging tennis coach in a southern China vacation resort, where his g.f., Ah Qing (Yang Xiaowen), waitresses. Luo attracts the attention of lonesome Mrs. Ou (Saren Gaowa), sexy wife of a rich businessman, who starts booking all his on-court time. The pair finally get it on one wet and stormy night.
Despite the urging of his cousin to tone down his self-destructive lifestyle, and the exasperation of Ah Qing, Luo carries on regardless, even when Mrs. Ou, fearful of losing her meal-ticket husband, starts putting the dampers on their affair.
Hu, who previously made the interesting “A Woman Left Behind,” gives the cliched story a slightly fresh twist with chapterlike rapid fades, a forthright approach to the sexual elements, and good use of Ni Zheng’s “Chinatown”-like trumpet-and-strings score. But the script and commercial acting styles floor any attempt to give the story deeper resonances. Main surprise is a coda, “several years later,” showing Luo as a successful businessman answering a call on his cellular.
Hu’s brother, Sherwood Hu Xuehua (“Warrior Lanling”), cops an executive director credit in the main titles, with Hu getting director credit only in the end crawl.