SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2016
By John Esther | January 25, 2016
Director: Yao Huang
Starring: Xiaodong Guo, Yi Sun, Daizhen Ying, Nan Yu
In Huang Yao’s Pleasure. Love. people in their 30s essentially have love (and career) worked out and it is up to them to impart that wisdom on their younger counterparts so they may in turn bestow such wisdom and assurance on future lovers.
Two stories with overlapping narratives, the first one, “Pleasure” is the more interesting and developed one. Nan (Daizhen Ying) has moved to Beijing, China, to go to school, but he is soon expelled due to lack of payment. This leads to a job selling books on the street (how novel), which pays so little he is threatened with eviction (a distracting, underdeveloped subplot). One night he meets Yajie (Nan Yu). Gorgeous, middle class, older and more mature, only in cinema land would a painfully awkward guy like Nan get a woman Yajie’s caliber.
Happy to make Nan happy (and, I suppose fulfill a few wishful thinkers in the audience), Yajie seduces Nan in her very nice home. Nan becomes immediately smitten with Yajie wanting to spend as much time as possible. However, Yajie’s life does not center on Nan, she has work to do, places to be, dinners to date, and so on.
As the relationship intensifies, Nan becomes more deranged with lust and love. Apparently, Yajie feels the need to put up with Nan’s immaturity.
The reasons for Yajie’s tolerance and patience with her inferior partner becomes clearer, but not so convincingly, later in the film, with “Love,” a story about an older Nan (Xiaodong Guo), who now has money (the near-evicted has become a real estate developer), and his seduction and teaching of love to a younger Yajie (Yi Sun), a young woman (teenager?) who has just come to the city and is so poor she shares a single room with three other women. (Oh, where is the class warfare in China?)
Shot by cinematographer Younian Liu, Pleasure. Love. (by the way, the actual title is offered in slight variations by the film’s publicists and filmmakers), the film has an interesting, ephemeral appearance that captures the essence of the bonding of love and emotions the four characters experience.
Unfortunately, this somewhat minimalist film offers minimal insights into love, time and wisdom. If anything, this film is rather a very conventional, conservative story where the older teach the young, the young grow wiser and prettier, love springs eternal devotion, and everybody who comes to the city is going to get noticed and succeed in his or her career. And guess which character has to die.