Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Summer Palace (2006)

This movie isn't really very good- sort of a Chinese St. Elmo's Fire- but artsy and with more nudity. A lot more nudity. But I suggest you watch the bonus material before screening the film. The most interesting thing about this movie is the Chinese government's petulant and paranoid reaction to it. After the movie was screened at Cannes, the filmmakers returned to China to find that the government had banned Summer Palace and forbidden them from making any more films for a period of five years. A ridiculous reaction, considering the Tiananmen Square protests are only a very small part of the script, and the characters are not activists, just interested observers. Once you know about the injustices done to director Ye Lou and his producer, you will have much more respect for this film and what it represents. The film itself is a gritty depiction of life at Beijing University in the 80s, where life was apparently one big party. I say apparently because some of the scenes appear to be lit with one 25 watt bulb and are quite hard to see. The film tracks the lives of the college friends from that time to the early 2000s. The film is rather long (I suggest watching it over 2 sittings), but the character of Ye Hong is mildly interesting, although her actions are not always easily understood. Or understood at all. Still, Summer Palace has become a film festival darling and an international symbol of the dangers of repressive governments.

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