Last year’s unwanted-pregnancy sweepstake continues with Lost in Beijing, Li Yu’s soap-operatic drama set in China’s bustling capital. Knocked up this time around is Liu Ping-guo (Fan Bingbing), a young woman from the countryside working as a masseuse in the Golden Basin Massage Parlor, a position that frequently leads her to providing sexual favors for clients. When the parlor owner, Mr. Lin (Tony Leung Ka-fai), finds her drunk and sprawled in the office one afternoon, he clumsily forces himself on her and is caught when Liu’s husband An Kun (Tong Dawei) drops by to clean the windows outside. Awkward! The young couple’s attempts to get money from him go nowhere, but when Liu’s pregnancy is revealed, Mr. Lin’s paternal instincts suddenly flare up and he offers to take care of the child in a “partnership” that doesn’t sit well with Wang Mei (Elaine Jin), his infertile wife. Though the relatively tame sex scenes reportedly raised the ire of Chinese censors, the film’s most provocative element rests in the way sex, whether negotiated between Liu and her customers or used as revenge by Wang (“My husband fucked your wife. Why don’t you fuck his wife?” she demands of An Kun), is viewed as just another type of transaction in the country’s increasingly materialistic system. Unfortunately, this insight is used less as a tool of inquiry than as a jumping point for a series of tiresome squabbles that tries to reveal surprising sides to the characters but succeeds only in making them sketchier and louder. Despite some unforced observational moments early on focusing on the young couple’s quotidian pleasures in their drab apartment and Liu’s interaction with the other masseuses, the film is all contrived conflict and sledgehammer metaphors. Poised as a gritty study in urban loneliness, Lost in Beijing instead becomes lost in clichés.
- New Yorker Films
- 112 min
- Li Yu
- Li Fang, Yu Li
- Bingbing Fan, Elaine Jin, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Dawei Tong
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