Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. China, 1999. Imar Film, Xi’an Film Studio. Screenplay by Shangjun Cai, Yi’nan Diao, Xin Huo, Fendou Liu, Yang Zhang. Cinematography by Jian Zhang. Produced by Peter Loehr. Music by Xiaogang Ye. Production Design by Meng Tian. Film Editing by Hongyu Yang. National Board of Review Awards 2000. Toronto International Film Festival 1999.
Funny and touching drama about an emotionally repressed businessman who mistakes a letter from his brother to be a notice about their father’s death, and travels back to his home town for the funeral. Upon arrival, he discovers the misunderstanding but stays on to have a visit with his family and spend his days relaxing in the bathhouse that they own. This skillfully directed film is never overly manipulative, but instead shows the spontaneous joy that comes when people who have lost touch with each other reestablish those connections. The cultural importance of bathing is highlighted here (a flashback to a folk tale is enchanting), as is the importance of breaking down emotionless interpersonal relationships and getting to the heart of who people really are. Lovely.