LAN YU (4K Restoration)
Title: Lan Yu《藍宇》
Directed by: Stanley Kwan
Written by: Jimmy Ngai
Produced by: Zhang Yongning
Production Year: 2001
Running Time: 86 min
The movie is based on a novel published anonymously on the Internet in 1998. The filming itself took place in Beijing, without government permission. The movie, which was directed by Stanley Kwan, tells a romantic and tragic love story of two men. It is based on the Chinese novel 北京故事 (‘’Běijīng gùshì’’, A Beijing Story) by an author identified only as a 北京同志 (‘’Běijīng tóngzhì’’, A Beijing Comrade), “tongzhi” in Mandarin, is a term that today is often used to refer to gay and lesbian identities in China. Since this work contained positive depictions of gay men, explicit (by Chinese standards) gay sex scenes, and resurrected the ghost of Tiananmen Square, at the time, no mainland Chinese publisher would have dared to publish it, nor would the author be safe from government reprisals. Hence, its anonymous publication on the Internet. The story is set in Beijing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and makes vivid reference to the Tiananmen Square massacre. The film can be counted as a mainland-made movie as most of the crew are from mainland China. Lan Yu received a brief mainland Chinese run during the Film Association of Beijing University-sponsored ‘China’s First Gay Film Festival’ at Peking University in December 2001. Although publicity for this film festival was mainly limited to the University’s website, all scheduled screenings of this film quickly sold out.
Meant merely as a diversion among his countless one-night stands, Handong’s sexual relationship with a sensitive college boy turns unexpectedly into something deeper – and even a life-changing initiation. Undeterred by Handong’s compulsive promiscuity and impulsive marriage, Lan Yu’s devotion cannot escape its unforgiving fate. Superbly acted by Hu Jun and Liu Ye, Stanley Kwan’s adaptation of an internet novel is a poignant portrait of a gay relationship filled with passion and deception, yearning and regret.
In the movie, Lan Yu (藍宇 / 蓝宇 Lán Yǔ), played by Liu Ye, a poor architecture student from northern China desperately needed money. (According to the novel, he was about 16 or 17 years old and a virgin.) It is the late 1980s. Meeting an acquaintance, Li Zheng (Li Huatong), who suggested to Lan Yu that the youth turn to prostitution, supposedly for one night only, to remedy his financial situation. Naively, Lan Yu agreed. That night, he arrived at Li’s bar and pool hall to meet his John. While there, Li introduced him to a successful businessman and international trader named Chen Handong (Hu Jun). (Li is also Chen Handong’s lieutenant and one of the few people knowing of his sexual inclination.) Lan Yu is evidently smitten for he left with the older man rather than the man he was to meet. The night they spent together was not only a sexual, but also an emotional awakening, for the boy. While Lan Yu immediately fell in love with Chen Handong, the older man, who was very closeted, wanted no emotional relationship, only sex. He tried his best to avoid any attachment whatsoever with the youth, instead he showered Lan Yu with money and expensive gifts. His efforts to turn Lan Yu’s love for him into a dependent, loveless relationship failed until Lan Yu discovered Chen in the middle of the seduction of a young college athlete. Crushed, Lan Yu left Chen’s apartment. They would not meet again until 4 June 1989, when Chen went looking for Lan Yu, fearing for the youth’s safety amid the army’s Tiananmen Square crackdown. Finding Lan Yu dishevelled and distraught, the incident reunited the two and opened a new chapter in their relationship.
Although Chen Handong still could not commit totally to Lan Yu, he now gave the youth time and attention as well as money, a car, and an expensive villa in the Beijing suburbs. None of the material things were what Lan Yu really wanted although he now accepted them. Chen now lived, somewhat surreptitiously, with Lan Yu and that was all that mattered to the latter. Unfortunately, Chen Handong, being the only son of a top government bureaucrat, was under increasing pressure to marry. After a whirlwind courtship, Chen Handong married Jingping (Su Jin), a translator who helped him negotiate a successful business deal with the Russians. Upon this marriage, Lan Yu moved out of the villa (although it was in his name and legally his) and Chen Handong and he lost all contact. Shortly thereafter, Chen Handong and Jingping divorced.
A chance meeting at the airport and Lan Yu’s invitation to a home-cooked meal reunited the pair. Finally, Chen Handong reciprocated the love and commitment Lan Yu had so freely given and the two were truly a couple. But, Chen Handong’s company, perhaps because of the Russian deal, had aroused government suspicion. An investigation of charges of smuggling and money-laundering started. With his father dead and no longer able to protect him, Chen Handong faced a long prison term, if not execution. Lan Yu took his savings and the proceeds of the sale of his villa and all of Chen’s other gifts and raised enough funds to get Chen Handong out of legal and financial trouble. Unfortunately, just as he realised that the younger man was truly his beloved and his destiny, Lan Yu is killed in a construction accident. Three years later, Chen Handong is still grief-stricken and that is how the film begins with his thinking back on the past and what might have been.
About the Director:
Stanley Kwan (in Mandarin Guan Jinpeng; in Cantonese Kwan Kam-Pang) was born in Hong Kong, 1957. After studying in the Department of Communications in Baptist College, he joined the television station TVB as a trainee actor but soon moved to the production training division. He found himself working as assistant to several of the young directors who went on to launch a ‘new wave’ in Hong Kong cinema – including Ann Hui, Yim Ho and Patrick Tam. He soon followed them in moving into the film industry and directed his own first feature in 1985. His second film Love Unto Waste was invited into competition in Locarno Film Festival and his third, Rouge, won him a substantial international audience. His 1991 film Actress (aka Centre Stage) won the best Actress prize in Berlin Film Festival for Maggie Cheung, and in 1997 Hold You Tight won both the Alfred Bauer prize for innovation and the Teddy Award for best lesbian/gay feature, again in Berlin. In addition to the feature films which have won him a worldwide art-house following, he has directed shorts, documentaries and a short play which was staged in both Hong Kong and London.
Hu Jun (Chen Handong)
Hu Jun is widely considered the most outstanding stage actor of his generation in China. A member of the Beijing People’s Art Theatre company, the country’s most prestigious modern-drama troupe, he played Vladimir in the company’s ground-breaking production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, staged in both China and Germany. His many other stage roles have included the policeman in the stage version of Zhang Yuan’s East Palace, West Palace, staged at the Edinburgh Festival and elsewhere in Europe and Latin America. His film credits include Xie Yuzhen’s Liehuo Enyuan (1990), Li Wenhua’s Hei Xue (1991), Li Ni’s Hei Huo (1992), Zhang yuan’s Donggong, Xigong (East Palace, West Palace, 1996) and Wang Rui’s Zhongtian Feibao (1998). He has also been seen in numerous television plays and serials. His performance in the film East Palace, West Palace won him the Bst Actor award at the 1997 Tormina Film Festival.
Liu Ye (Lan Yu)
Liu Ye was born in 1978, and studied at the Central Drama Academy in Beijing from 1996 to 2000. He is a member of the China Youth Arts Theatre company. He began acting in films while still a student, notably in the Beijing Film Studio production Na Shan, Na Ren, Na Gou (1998), which won him a Best Supporting Actor nomination in the 1999 Golden Rooster Awards. He was also seen in the epic historical drama Dream of the Century (1998) and the drama Female Officer, male Private (1999). Lan Yu and I gave him his first lead role in a film.
Su Jin (Jingping)
Su Jin made her screen debut in Zhang Nuanxin’s South China, 1994 (1993) and was recently seen in Wu Tiange’s Wo de Aiqing Riji (My Love Diary, 2000). Her starring role in Zhao Baogang’s television drama Dying with Open Eyes (1998) won her the Most Popular Actress award at that year’s Golden Eagle Festival. She has been seen in many other television dramas and advertising campaigns in recent years.
Director’s Statement – Stanley Kwan
Although I’m gay, I’m not particularly eager to deal with ‘gay issues’ in the films I make. This film came about entirely by chance. Zhang Yongning (who plays Daning in the film) found the original, anonymously written novel on the internet and asked me if I would like to direct a film adaptation. I read it and found the passions in the central relationship interesting and so I agreed to make the film. In my last film The Island Tales, I made simple things too complicated. And so this time I’ve tried to make complicated things less complicated, or simple things even simpler.
The Novel and Its Author
The novel upon which Lan Yu and I is based was published on the internet. The first of three installments appeared in 1996. Each installment was given a different title; the final, unifying title for the ten-chapter work was Beijing Gushi (Beijing Story). The author adopted the pseudonym ‘Beijing Tongzhi’ – literally ‘Beijing Comrade’, but he word tongzhi, the traditional form of greeting between communists, has latterly picked up the slang meaning of ‘gay’. The novel was the first frank exploration of gay lives and loves to appear in mainland China, and it very quickly became hugely popular throughout the country’s vast underground gay community. Beijing Story pioneered the idea of publishing ‘illicit’ Chinese fiction on the internet, setting a precedent since copied by several other authors.