Site Features
- Asian Film Awards
- Site Recommendations

- Reader Poll Results

- The Sponsor Page
- The FAQ Page
support this site by shopping at
Click to visit
Asian Blu-ray discs at
Lost in Beijing
  Chinese: 蘋果
Fan Bing-Bing and Tong Dawei
  Year: 2007  
  Director: Li Yu  
  Producer: Fang Li  
  Cast: Fan Bing-Bing, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Tong Dawei, Elaine Kam Yin-Ling, Zeng Mei Hui Zi  
The Skinny: Controversial tragicomedy exposing rape, adultery, and assorted human ugliness in urban Beijing. Li Yu's film is not for the average filmgoer, who may find its opaque excesses to be either boring or reprehensible. However, this is an affecting and even darkly entertaining work that's well worth its fest rep.
by Kozo:

Notorious on the film-fest circuit for incurring the wrath of Chinese censors prior to release, Lost in Beijing gets off to a claustrophobic, alienating start. This Beijing-set tale of adultery, chicanery, and assorted human crappiness is told free of comfy cinema technique, like establishing shots, static camera, or emotion created through calculated montage. Basically, the stuff designed to elicit a programmed audience response is largely missing, replaced here by a surprisingly funny, dark semblance of reality. Director Li Yu uses mostly moving camera to tell her story, taking us directly into her characters' lives in all their dirty, ugly glory. The result is a film that can really turn an audience off, as it carries no positive payoff or uplifting reward. At the same time, the film manages to be darkly entertaining and even powerful thanks to a cynical wit and glimpses into recognizable human ugliness.

Fan Bing-Bing stars as Pingguo, who works at a massage parlor for Lin (Tony Leung Ka-Fai), her whoring but otherwise professional boss. Pingguo is married to window washer Kun (Tong Dawei), a fact that she keeps secret from her employer, and the two share a meager existence not unexpected for recent country-to-city transplants in Beijing. But things change when Lin rapes Pinguo; he finds her drunk in the massage parlor offices and proceeds to act on his poorly tamed libido. Kun, who's washing the windows outside, witnesses the crime, and is at first incensed. But Kun's anger gives way to greed; he attempts to blackmail Lin, threatening to tell the cops if he doesn't give up some cash. Lin won't bow to Kun's blackmail, but Pingguo's threats - using her semen-stained clothes as proof - keep her employed. Once Kun tells Lin's wife (Elaine Kam) of the situation, she has her own solution: rape Lin's wife in retaliation for Lin raping his wife. He obliges - with her consent, naturally - and everyone is now guilty, save perhaps Pingguo.

Things get even more screwed when Pingguo discovers that she's pregnant. The baby could be either Kun's or Lin's, and Pingguo is loath to keep it given the circumstances. However, Kun uses the pregnancy as another opportunity for blackmail. This time it works, because Lin and his wife have never been able to conceive, and Lin desperately wants a child. The two men strike a cynical, damning bargain, with Lin getting the unborn child and Kun getting the money. But that's just the beginning for this ménage-a-quatre, as each jockeys for what they want, usually disregarding morality or common decency along the way. Lin wants the child, but with the comely Pingguo around, he may want something else. Mrs. Lin also wants the child, but she absolutely does not want Lin to spend more time with the younger and more attractive Pingguo. Kun wants the money, but if the child does turn out to be his, his ego won't allow him to simply let go. The lone holdout for moral murkiness is Pingguo, who's pulled in multiple directions. Now out of control, the situation spins in a sometimes darkly humorous and ultimately inescapable direction.

The title Lost in Beijing implies a sort of socio-cultural significance, though it's arguable if the film truly achieves that. Besides the characters' obvious economic and social differences, Li Yu sometimes resorts to shaky montages set on the streets of Beijing, highlighting the varying class strata in passing. Still, what goes on with the main characters is more about their familiar and flawed personalities than some sort of grand thematic tale of class difference. This is a story that could conceivably take place anywhere, as the human ugliness on display seems very universal. The characters are given many chances to do honorable things, but they frequently deny those chances, opting for self-gratification or material wealth over common decency. What's surprising is how each character manages to shift sympathy as the film progresses. Lin is a seeming rat bastard when it comes to women, but his attitudes towards family and money are surprisingly decent. Conversely, Kun's pragmatism gives way to a despicable greed, though he manages to show a heart when not blinded by ego or jealousy. Lost in Beijing's characters are so pathetic that they end up feeling very real, earning empathy while also repelling us.

Li Yu's handheld camera adds to the immediacy and seeming reality of the film, frequently finding humor that's both funny and quite sad. Tony Leung Ka-Fai overacts admirably as Lin, managing to be both likable and despicable, while Tong Dawei and Elaine Kam portray their reprehensible, yet sometimes pathetic and pitiable characters with admirable abandon. The film belongs to Fan Bing-Bing, however, who ditches her usual flower vase image with a gutsy performance as the vulnerable, yet resolute Pingguo. The situations in Lost in Beijing are sometimes exaggerated, but the storytelling, cinematography and performances keep the film grounded, such that it feels like it could actually happen. Li Yu convinces us of the reality of the situation, giving the film its status as both a well-observed drama and a darkly entertaining comedy of human crappiness. The circumstances may not be so extreme, but you can probably see people behaving like this in real life. These characters could be lost almost anywhere, and not just in Beijing. (Kozo, Reviewed at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, 2007)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Modern Audio
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
  Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen