×

Lost in Beijing

Money (and maybe a little bit of love) makes the world go around in "Lost in Beijing," an involving, highly accessible portrait of an emotional menage a quatre in the modern-day Chinese capital.

With:
With: Tony Leung Ka-fai, Fan Bingbing, Tong Dawei, Elaine Jin, Zeng Meihuizi. (International version, Mandarin dialogue)

Money (and maybe a little bit of love) makes the world go around in “Lost in Beijing,” an involving, highly accessible portrait of an emotional menage a quatre in the modern-day Chinese capital. Third feature by Mainland writer-director Li Yu reps a striking career fulfillment by the thirty-something former documaker, following her rough but ground-breaking lesbian pic “Fish and Elephant” (2001), and her accom-plished but Euro-style drama “Dam Street” two years ago. Though pic is facing censorship difficulties within China, specialized distribu-tion, plus robust fest travel, means “Lost” will be found by offshore viewers.

As of early February, there were still doubts whether the movie would make it (and in what form) into Berlin’s competition for its skedded Feb. 16 screening, due to demands by China’s Film Bureau for a reported 10 minutes or so of cuts before getting official permission to attend. How-ever, at the end of the day, the version screened at the fest was the full international one.

Producer-co-writer Fang Li co-produced last year’s “Summer Pal-ace,” which earned helmer Lou Ye a five-year ban for competing, unau-thorized, in the Cannes fest. But apart from the censorship hoo-ha, there’s no comparison between the two pictures, especially on an artistic level.

Pre-publicity centered largely on the sex scenes in “Lost.” In fact, (a) pic has no frontal nudity apart from a blink-and-you’d-miss-it sighting of the lead actress’ nipple, and (b) all three of the early sex scenes (roman-tic lovemaking under a shower, a semi-rape, and rough marital sex) are dramatically justified and visually soft-core. Trimming any would weaken but not capsize the movie, as “Lost” has way more going for it than just that.

It’s also likely that Chinese censors are equally discomforted by other content, in particular a scene in which a doctor is shown accepting a bribe.

Title sequence, to light piano tin-klings by composer Peyman Yaz-danian (“Summer Palace”), sketches the high-rise, construction-heavy skyline of contempo Beijing before plunging into the world of Lin Dong (Hong Kong vet Tony Leung Ka-fai), a nouveau-riche entrepreneur from the southern province of Guangdong who runs the Golden Basin Foot Massage Parlor.

Among his staff of girls are Liu Pingguo (Fan Bingbing) and Xiaomei (Zeng Meihuizi), both from the same small northeastern town who’ve come to make it in the big city.

After the two girls get drunk, Ping-guo ends up in Dong’s apartment, where he clumsily forces himself on her. In a scene which, like several in the movie, marbles drama with light, absurdist comedy, Pingguo’s husband, window-cleaner An Kun (Tong Dawei), sees them from his harness outside the building.

Later, Kun has rough sex with Pingguo to exorcise his anger; more comically, he also rips the hood ornament off Dong’s beloved Mer-cedes-Benz in revenge.

But it’s money that turns out to be the common language between Kun and Dong as they settle their differ-ences. When Pingguo finds she’s pregnant, all parties — including Dong’s barren wife, beauty-parlor owner Wang Mei (Taiwan vet Elaine Jin) — sign contracts. Dong, who’s desperate for a child, will adopt the child, Kun and Pingguo will get substantial coin, and Mei will get 50% of her husband’s assets if he ever fools around again.

Script then weaves a complex fab-ric of emotional ties and business arrangements that bind the two couples into a kind of mutually dependent, extended family.

When Pingguo gives birth to a daughter, Dong, convinced the child is his, turns into a devoted, gleeful parent. As emotional ties become blurred between the four, Pingguo finds she can’t give up the child.

Pics about modern China’s money-obsessed society, and immigrants making it in the big city, are hardly new — from “Far From Home” to last year’s excellent “Luxury Car.” But “Lost” takes a new tack, neither focusing per se on the protags’ out-of-town status nor venturing into any dark, violent territory. Tight script omits any unnecessary connecting material and carves believable char-acters making a go of it in the only ways they know.

Four main thesps are aces, from Leung’s almost childlike entrepre-neur, through Jin’s bitter, waspish wife, to Tong’s boyish husband. As Pingguo (pic’s Chinese title, meaning “Apple”), up-and-coming Fan, good in recent costume actioner “A Battle of Wits,” convincingly blends provin-cial toughness with maternal softness.

Shot in bright clear colors, with plenty of handheld camerawork, film has a totally different visual style from helmer Li’s burnished, ultra-composed “Dam Street.” All other tech credits are top class.

Lost in Beijing

China

Production: A Laurel Films production. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Fang Li. Executive producer, Fang. Directed by Li Yu. Screenplay, Li, Fang Li; story, Fang, Li.

Crew: Camera (color), Wang Yu; editor, Zeng Jian; music, Peyman Yazdanian; art director, Liu Weixin; costumes, Xu Zhen; sound (Dolby Digital), Lai Qizhen, Wang Xueyi; assistant director, Bao Zhenjiang. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 10, 2007. Running time: 113 MIN.

With: With: Tony Leung Ka-fai, Fan Bingbing, Tong Dawei, Elaine Jin, Zeng Meihuizi. (International version, Mandarin dialogue)

More Film

  • BRAZILIAN FLAGFRENCH OPEN TENNIS, PARIS, FRANCE

    Brazil’s Ancine Freezes Incentives, Threatening Film-TV Industry Paralysis

    Brazil’s Ancine agency, its foremost public-sector source of film funding, has frozen all of its incentive programs, potentially near paralyzing new production in Latin America’s biggest film-TV industry. The dramatic decision, which has left Brazil’s industry is a state of shock and intense fear for its future, comes as it has taken further hits. In [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez

    Jennifer Lopez Reteams With STXfilms on Romantic-Comedy Co-Starring Owen Wilson

    Jennifer Lopez is reteaming with STXfilms on the upcoming romantic-comedy “Marry Me.” Kat Coiro is directing the film and Owen Wilson is in final negotiations to join the pic, which will likely shoot this fall. The script was written by John Rogers and Tami Sagher, with a rewrite by Harper Dill. Lopez and Wilson both [...]

  • Steve Golin The Revenant Spotlight Producer

    Steve Golin, Prolific Producer and Founder of Anonymous Content, Dies at 64

    Steve Golin, an Oscar-winning producer who was founder and CEO of Anonymous Content, died Sunday in Los Angeles of cancer. He was 64. Golin was a pioneer in blending the business of talent management with production. Anonymous Content, which Golin founded in 1999, worked with a stable of big name artists such as Steven Soderbergh, [...]

  • Kelly McCormick David Leitch

    'Hobbs & Shaw' Director David Leitch, Kelly McCormick Sign First-Look Deal With Universal (EXCLUSIVE)

    Universal Pictures is signing David Leitch, his longtime producing partner, Kelly McCormick and their recently founded 87North Production banner to a first-look production deal. “David and Kelly have established themselves as a distinctive, stylish filmmaking team who can do it all, from contained thrillers to franchise tentpoles,” said Universal’s president Peter Cramer. “We are confident [...]

  • Still from cannes competition film "Parasite"

    Cannes: Bong Joon-ho Says ‘Parasite’ Is Too Local to Win Competition

    Having been partially responsible for the Netflix fall out with the Cannes Film Festival, “Okja” and “Snowpiercer” director Bong Joon-ho returns to Cannes competition this year with conventionally- financed “Parasite.” But the Korean-language film is a tragicomedy that Bong says may be too nuanced for the festival. “Cannes always makes me feel excited, fresh, and [...]

  • Summer Box Office: 'Avengers: Endgame,' 'Lion

    Summer Box Office: Five Weekends to Watch

    Popcorn season is upon us, and it’ll be up to comic-book heroes, a wise-cracking genie, and a lion who would be king to ensure movie theaters are still the hottest place to spend the summer. Last summer, blockbusters like “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” Ocean’s 8,” and “The Meg” drove moviegoers to their [...]

  • Critics Week

    Cannes Critics’ Week Unveils Its Lineup

    Lorcan Finnegan’s science-fiction thriller “Vivarium” with Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, Jérémy Clapin’s fantasy-filled animated feature “I Lost My Body,” and Hlynur Pálmason’s Icelandic drama “A White, White Day” are among the 11 films set to compete at Critics’ Week, the section dedicated to first and second films that runs parallel with the Cannes Film [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content