Luxury Car - Screen Daily Review

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Luxury Car - Screen Daily Review

Postby dleedlee » Wed Jun 21, 2006 6:26 pm

Luxury Car
Dan Fainaru in Cannes 21 June 2006

Dir/scr: Wang Chao. Chi-Fr. 2006. 88mins

If Luxury Car, Wang Chao’s old-fashioned Franco-Chinese melodrama about a man looking for his son in the big city, turns out so much better than its contents seem to promise, then it is mostly due to the gently restrained treatment it receives from its writer/director and a remarkable cast that never puts a foot wrong.

Raising the kind of issues that have often concerned Chinese cinema in recent years, Wang's picture explores again the drastic changes in the social structure of the country that have come about through swift modernisation.

Best known for Orphan Of Anyang, Wang may say little new here, but his quiet, subdued approach and keen observation of characters combine for a modest but consistently impressive picture. Festivals will acquire it without hesitation (it played in Un Certain Regard at Cannes where it enjoyed a warm reception); specialised distributors are urged to view it at the earliest opportunity.

Just before he retires, Li Qi Ming (Wu You Cai), promises his ailing wife to find their absent son, who has vanished in the city of Wuhan, where Li Qi Ming lived as a student 40 years ago before exile to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution.

He is met at the station by his daughter, Yanhong (Tian Yuan) who, he believes, has a decent job in the city but who is in reality a nightclub prostitute She introduces him to an old policeman, also at the end of his career, who helps him search for his son, and to her boss and occasional boyfriend He Ge (Huang He), who she presents as her fiance.

Once established, these basic ingredients cannot lead in too many directions. The teacher starts suspecting something is wrong with his daughter. The search for the lost son and a tour of the city in He Ge's luxurious Audi offer the obligatory travelogue. A sordid affair, in which an unhappy client disapproves of being deprived of his favourite girl, erupts early on and has its inevitable tragic unravelling before the end A push here, a shove there and the plot proceeds towards its satisfactory, if not terribly surprising, ending.

But forget the script: it is not Luxury Car’s strongest point and the feature as a whole works despite, rather than because, of it. Rather, what draws the audience is Wang's immense sympathy for his characters, which is evident at all times, and how he keeps the tone muted and the drama understated throughout.

Silences are often more eloquent than dialogue, which tactfully leave unsaid most of the elements that melodramas usually trumpet in detail. As seen here, there are few flattering aspects to the new face of China, and the trauma of overnight urbanisation is painfully felt. As the title ironically hints, the luxury car now has priority over the old fashioned dreams of the past.

Deeply etched on the face of Li Qi Ming, as played by Wu You Cai, is the stunned disarray of a man out of his depth, gradually deprived of any illusion or hope and yet never losing his innocence.

Tian Yuan, as the daughter, conveys not only through her expression but every inch of her body the disheartened exhaustion of a person approaching the end of her tether.

Although father and daughter, the gap between them seems far farther than one generation apart - and even a relatively upbeat ending cannot dispel that impression.

Production companies
Rosem Films
Bai Bu Ting Media
Arte France Cinema

International sales
Celluloid Dreams

Sylvain Bursztejn
Mao Yong Hong

Liu Yong Hong

Tao Wen

Production design
Li Wen Bo

Xiao He

Main cast
Tian Yuan
Wu You Cai
Li Yi Qing
Huang He ... 757&r=true
饮水思源 Better to light a candle than curse the darkness; Measure twice, cut once.
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