Summer Palace (2006)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

Original title:  Yihe Yuan

China/France, 2006.  Centre National de la Cinématographie, Dream Factory, Flying Moon Filmproduktion, Fonds Sud Cinéma, Laurel Films, Ministère des Affaires étrangères et du Développement International, Norman Rosemont Productions, Rosem Films.  Screenplay by Ye Lou, .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , Ye Lou.  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by Ye Lou, .  

A powerful epic so explosive at its Cannes debut that the government yanked it from competition for the Palme D’Or and placed a five-year ban on the filmmaker (which he broke with his even better Spring Fever in 2009).  You would think the erotic content (including some wonderfully steamy sex) would be the source of trouble, but actually the centerpiece footage from the real Tiananmen Square demonstrations that were used without permission were what landed it in such hot water.  The film is a work of art even without the exciting controversy, focusing on Yu Hong, a young woman who leaves behind her provincial boyfriend to go study at the university in Beijing and there falls head over heels in love with handsome Zhou Wei.  He loves her back but can’t help parlaying his popularity and good looks into plenty of conquests in these glory days, which drives them apart and nothing improves when the aforementioned disaster strikes and sets them on different paths in the years that follow.  Zhou Wei ends up with a new girlfriend in Berlin while Yu Hong finds a quieter love and a respectable career, but their paths are likely to cross again before this saga is over.  Filmed with the powerful sense of immediacy that Lou’s films benefit so greatly from, rooted in the awe and respect at the fleeting nature of passion, it’s also blessed with great performances and superb editing.

Cannes Film Festival:  In Competition

Toronto International Film Festival:  2006

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