The director is at his best portraying the dingy dorms and vivid idealism of college life; his film stalls when it meanders away from these particulars toward a sweeping but empty attempt at the epic.
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In Summer Palace Lou nonetheless succeeds in finding a cinematic language that does more than summarize the important events of a confusing decade. He distills the inner confusion -- the swirl of moods, whims and needs -- that is the lived and living essence of history.
In truth, I’ve never seen so much lovemaking in an aboveground film, but the revelation, and great triumph, of Lou’s work is that these scenes are never pornographic--that is, never separated from emotion.
Fourth feature by Mainland helmer Lou Ye ("Suzhou River," "Purple Butterfly") shoots for metaphysical drama but ends up saying very little beneath all the poetic voiceovers, sexual encounters and political seasoning.
It's a bit like a Chinese "Splendor In The Grass."
For director Lou Ye, who also co-wrote the script and was a student in Beijing during that crucial year, Summer Palace is the story of his particular lost generation, a story he felt so deeply about he risked his career to tell it. Search out this vivid film in a theater. Don't let the sacrifices he made be in vain.
At the heart of the film is a powerful performance by the beautiful and most promising Hao Lei as its tempestuous, complex heroine.
Jolting narrative ellipses sometimes threatens to bring the whole house of cards tumbling down. What never lessens is the movie's rapturous eroticism, and the exquisite longing in each one of Yu Hong's sideways glances.
The bureaucrats in Beijing want to get rid of the sex and full-frontial nudity and scenes of cops beating protesters in Tiananmen Square. I would keep all that but cut out some of the flab in the second half of the 140-minute drama.