Lan Yu (2001)
Director: Stanley Kwan.
Starring: Ye Liu (Lan Yu), Jun Hu (Chen Handong), Bin Li, Huatong Li (Liu Zheng), Shuang Li (Weidong ), Fang Lu (Yonghong), Jin Su (Lin Jingping), Shaohua Zhang (Niu Ma), Yongning Zhang (Daning ).
Gay romance set against Tianeman Square, China
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the film.
One man, named Chen Handong, is shaving, getting ready to go, while the other man is still in bed. Handong goes to play pool with friends. A friend named Liu Zheng comes over to speak to the pool players. A young woman teases Handong about scoring with some young woman and challenges Handong to tell them the name of the woman. Handong doesn't say anything.
Zheng tells Handong that he is trying to hook up a young college student with his big boss. Handong is interested in the student and will pay the 1,000 yuan to Zheng for the hook-up. The pool player asks Zheng to come with him and they will invite the young man out for dinner. The college student's name is Lan Yu.
After dinner Lan Yu accompanies Handong to his hotel room. Handong takes a shower and when he gets out he tell Lan Yu that he thought he would have taken all of Handong's stuff and split. The two men get naked (with views of Lan Yu's penis). In answer to Handong's questions Lan Yu says he is a student of architecture and comes from the northeast. Handong talks about his business company which today is worth more than 100 million today.
Handong asks Lan Yu to stay with him overnight. Lan Yu agrees. He then asks Lan Yu if this is his first time and Lan Yu nods in the affirmative. So Handong shows him how to kiss.
Four months later. In the snow Handong runs into Lan Yu again. Handong says he had expected Lan Yu to give him a call, but Lan Yu lost the number. Lan Yu has underdressed for the cold weather and Handong gives him his shawl from around his neck to help keep him warm. Lan Yu is on winter break from school and Handong asks him to come over to his place.
Lan Yu is in bed again, but with his skivvies on this time. It's New Year's Day. Handong has already made a reservation at a fancy restaurant for the two of them. Lan Yu comes over to the couch and kisses Handong. Handong then gives Lan Yu a whole new set of clothes. Handong doesn't like his boy friend going around dressed like a country boy. Lan Yu objects that if he wears these new clothes to school he will be accused of being Japanese. In a playful mood, Handong tries to take off Lan Yu's underwear, but Lan Yu holds on to it with fierce determination.
Lan Yu comes into a restaurant and apologizes to Handong for being late. He had to come by bus. Handong tells him next time to take a taxi or call him and he will pick Lan Yu up. Lan Yu tells his friend that he saves all the money he receives from Handong.
Handong picks up Lan Yu and the latter tells Handong that Mr. Liu got him a construction job, but it doesn't pay well. Lan Yu says he was afraid to say anything to Handong about the job. Why? Lan Yu says nothing. So Handong sets things straight with Lan Yu. They will only stay together as long as the relationship feels right. and when it doesn't they will just break up. A usual time for Handong to break up relationships is when the two people get to know too much about each other. Lan Yu doesn't like what he hears, but Handong tells him that as of yet they do not know too much about each other. He then gives Lan Yu a kiss.
The couple go have dinner with Handong's family. His mother and sister are there. A little later Handong's brother Weidong comes in with guitar in hand. A Mr. Daning comes in. Then comes Niu Ma who greets Mr. Daning. Daning congratulates Handong on his successful business and then offers a toast to the New Year.
Two weeks later. Back in his bedroom Handong has sex with another young man, this one very muscular. The muscular guy wants to be a model. Just then Lan Yu knocks at the door. He gives Handong a big hug and tells Handong that he has missed him. Handong tells him that he should have called first. Now Lan Yu sees the want-to-be model. Lan Yu says he better go and runs away. Handong comes after him and catches up with him at the elevator. He tells Lan Yu that he has told Lan Yu before that these things are just not that serious for him. But it appears to be serious for Lan Yu. He asks his friend what is serious for him? Handong ignores the question and basically says that Lan Yu is ungrateful for what he has done for him. Lan Yu says he will give all the money he has back to Handong. The door closes. Handong says that even if Lan Yu gives him back all the money he paid him, it won't change anything. He shouts: "I'm no Mr. Nice Guy!"
Handong is irritable at work because it's very hot and the air conditioner doesn't work. He asks where Liu Zheng is and a woman says he's with his wife at the maternity ward. When Zheng comes in Handong asks him about his wife Shilling. She has not gone into labor as yet and the doctor told Zheng to prepare himself mentally.
A Mr. Luo comes in to tell Handong that if he has any friend on Tiananmen Square, tell them to get out of there. "Things are heating up." The police and military are going to clear the Square of all student protestors and others tonight. Just before leaving, Luo says that he saw Lan Yu in the Square the other day helping to keep order. Handong says he hasn't seen Lan Yu for ages.
At night Handong decides to see if he can find Lan Yu. He hears gunshots. He parks his car and then falls asleep. Lan Yu finds him. Handong gets out of the car and they embrace. He takes Lan Yu home with him where he holds the young fellow while he cries about what happened at the square at 4:30 a.m., June 4.
Handong gives Lan Yu a graduation gift of a new car. He also gives Lan Yu another gift: a house. Lan Yu asks Handong about how his mother is holding up? Handong's father recently died. He says his mother is doing all right. Handong says it's strange. He has not been crying over his father, but when Mao Tse-Tung died, he cried and cried and couldn't stop. Lan Yu says he was too young when Mao died, but he does remember that his father and the whole village cried over the death. Later, Lan Yu calls his mother and asks her when she and dad are going to come visit him?
Handong has a business meeting with some Russians. He uses an interpreter, Ms. Lin, to translate. Partly to thank her for her services, Handong takes Lin to dinner.
Lan Yu asks if Handong is going to marry this "brilliant" translator Ms. Lin? Handong dodges the question. He just says that Lan Yu can sell the house if he so desires and use the money to start a business. He sits down beside Lan Yu and tells him that every man should settle down and have a child. Lan Yu is upset and starts to leave, but Handong starts talking to him some more and Lan Yu sits down. Then Lan Yu drops a bomb: "You realize I won't be sitting here waiting for you anymore." Now Handong tells Lan Yu that he loves him. Lan Yu replies that he loves Handong.
Early morning and Lan Yu is already up. He says he is leaving because Handong is getting married, so: "No point in my staying here." Handong counters that it's not a big deal to get married. Now Lan Yu gets angry and asks: "Is that what you tell your wife?" Handong just doesn't seem to understand what love is. It is natural that Lan Yu would be upset in this situation, but Handong only accuses him of being "melodramatic". Handong gets upset and yells when is Lan Yu going to reciprocate and give him something? So Lan Yu pulls down his pants and asks: "Master, in what position would you like me?" Handong tells him to stop it! He says they won't meet anymore, except in the case of an emergency.
Lan Yu gets very sad as he prepares to leave. He says that he tried to love Handong less, so that they wouldn't come to know everything about each other and have to split. Then he swears: "I'll never let anyone break my heart again."
It's the day of the wedding and last minute preparations are being made. The bride tells Handong, who is leaving on a business trip at 7 p.m., not to bring any "emotional" business back with him from Hong Kong. Handong says he doesn't know what Jingping is talking about.
Against a completely black backdrop Handong says: "I thought being with Jingping could make me forget you." And he thought that he could make a woman happy.
Handong sees Lan Yu in the airport parking lot. Lan Yu just says everything's all right. Handong tries to make a date with him, but Lan Yu says he already has a date. Lan Yu says he has got to go because a workmate is waiting for him and they both have to go back to the office. Handong finally asks him how can he contact Lan Yu? Lan Yu gives Handong his business card and then leaves.
Handong visits Lan Yu in his apartment. He asks Lan Yu if he has a new boyfriend? Lan Yu says yes, but he's too shy to meet Handong. Lany Yu finds out that Handong is already divorced from his wife. Handong wrecked his car too and took a taxi to Lan Yu's place. He refers to Lan Yu as young, but the younger man says he is already 28.
Handong falls asleep on the sofa. Lan Yu wakes him saying that he has to go to bed now and can he call Handong a taxi? Handong says he wants to hug Lan Yu and so they hug. He holds the 28 year old hard and asks himself: "Whatever made me let you go?"
In bed, the two men wake up to a rainy day. Lan Yu realizes he has to get up fast and get going because he has a client that will be waiting for him. Handong gets a call telling him that the president has already been arrested. The two men leave the apartment at the same time.
Handong goes to his office and he talks with Zheng about the problems of the business. He urges Zheng not to worry too much, because he won't be held responsible for the bribery, smuggling or illegal fundraising that went on in the business. After all, Zheng is just an employee. Handong worries that he himself will soon be arrested.
In responses to Handong's request, Lan Yu goes to Handong's office to speak with him. Handong has already set up everything so Lan Yu can go study in the USA. The police arrive.
Handong is in police custody. His business partner and the accountant come visit him. Now the accounts of the business are all frozen. They are going to get him out of there, but it will coast a million. Liu Zheng mortgaged his house, but they were still short on money. Lan Yu provided all the rest. Handong is surprised because he thought Lan Yu was in the USA. The business partner responds that Lan Yu couldn't go because Handong faced the death penalty. The accountant says Lan Yu sold the villa Handong had given him and added all his savings to the pot. Handong is impressed.
Handong and his business staff and partner all get together at an apartment. They all toast to Handong and the black cloud being lifted off the business.
Handong has now moved in with Lan Yu in his apartment. In bed they kiss and have sex (not shown).
As narrator, Handong says that when he was in jail, he thought about himself and Lan Yu being destined for each other.
Zheng tells Handong that after they pay off taxes, debts and creditors, they will have very little left, but it's enough to start up the business again. That's good new, but Handong gets a telephone call with very bad news. Lan Yu is dead. Handong goes to see his body in the morgue and cries over the death. It was a construction accident. As Handong passes the construction site in his car, he says: "You know what? Beijing is the same now as it was then -- construction everywhere, buildings up and down. Whenever I pass the site where you had the accident, I stop. But my mind is at peace because I feel that you're always with me." He continues driving.
This is primarily a love story. It's between two men, but a love story nonetheless. And as a love story I never got too into it because the character of the older man was so shallow. Handong did not know what love is and, therefore, he didn't know how to respond in a loving way to a very nice, loving person. For some unknown reason, Handong was just not a whole person. He hid behind his business (in which he was involved with shady business). He was too busy making money to realize what life is really about. Only at the end when he gets in trouble with the law does he start to wake up. He starts a real relationship with Lan Yu finally, but, you know what they say: life is short or too short.
I watched the movie because it was set against the backdrop of the events at Tiananmen Square, but it is not much more than a mention in the film. I wouldn't recommend it as an historical film.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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