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Love for Life
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Love for Life

Zhang Ziyi and Aaron Kwok play the prettiest AIDS patients ever in Gu Changwei's Love for Life

AKA: Life is a Miracle
AKA: 'Til Death Do Us Part
Chinese: 最愛  
Year: 2011
Director: Gu Changwei

Yan Laoshi, Yang Weiwei, Gu Changwei

Cast: Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing, Zhang Ziyi, Tao Zeru, Pu Quanxin, Jiang Wenli, Wang Baoqiang, Cai Guoqing, Li Dangyang, Li Jianhua, Guo Zetao, Jiang Wen (cameo)
The Skinny:

In its current edited form, Love for Life is a strangely incomplete film about Chinese villagers with AIDS. However, thanks to an even stranger romance at the film's core, not even the discussed 150-minute director's cut is likely to improve things.

by Kevin Ma:
They say that good films are made in the editing room, but Gu Changwei's Love For Life proves that bad films can be made there, too. When the initial cut of Love For Life ran two-and-a-half hours, the director was forced to cut the film down to 100 minutes to make it more commercially viable. Originally a serious social drama taking place in the early 90s, Love For Life was supposed to be about Chinese villagers infected with AIDS from dirty blood transfusions (the film is based on the "blood merchants" scandal), but what remains is an incomplete puzzle missing crucial pieces. Love for Life is now a bizarre love story that has been so diluted that it won't even earn the goodwill of a socially conscious audience interested in the subject matter.

In cutting out the socially relevant elements, Gu also had to cut out his characters' back stories. The film now starts abruptly in the middle of its story with the death of 12-year-old Xin (Guo Zetao), who narrates the film. He explains that his entrepreneur father Qiquan (Pu Quanxin) was responsible for a blood-selling scheme that led to many villagers contracting AIDS - though the details of how this happens are never revealed. In addition to the unapologetic Qiquan becoming public enemy number one, both Qiquan's father Zhu and his AIDS-suffering brother Deyi (Aaron Kwok) are shunned by the village. To make up for his eldest son's misdeeds, Zhu offers the village school, where he serves as caretaker, as a compound for the infected.

One of those forced into the AIDS compound is Qinqin (Zhang Ziyi), the wife of Deyi's abusive cousin (a fact that we don't discover until over 30 minutes into the film). Separated from their respective less-than-loving spouses, Deyi and Qinqin begin an extramarital affair that is quickly broken up by nosy villagers using dirty secrets for their own gain. Determined to leave his own loveless marriage and rescue Qinqin from hers, Deyi begins a battle of morals and peer pressure as he fights his wife Haoyan (Li Dangyang), Qinqin's angry mother-in-law and other social hurdles. Even when they overcome those obstacles, they still have to contend with that pesky terminal illness that they share.

Love for Life may best be appreciated as a “baby steps” movie. It's the first government-approved film to directly deal with AIDS in China (the topic was previously considered taboo), and even its current version manages to touch on interesting topics like the new generation of greedy Chinese entrepreneurs and peer oppression in the name of traditional values. However, the film likely found funding thanks to its two beautiful (and probably expensive) stars, and its relatively audience-friendly approach to its subject matter. Dying from AIDS is not a pretty thing to see, which may be why nearly all the AIDS-related deaths in the film involve people simply dropping to the ground or dying peacefully in their sleep. These are honest intentions ruined by a dishonest approach.

Though many of Love for Life's flaws can be blamed on the cuts, the current version is too riddled with problems to suggest that adding 50 minutes will automatically make for a better film. The main problem lies with Deyi and Qinqin’s romance, which starts with a "no means yes" tryst during which Deyi essentially forces himself on Qinqin (though the scene ends before anything is really seen happening). After that, the romance takes some odd turns, including the introduction of an Oedipus complex that would make Freud blush. Gu also infuses the emotionally heavy story with doses of humor that are as out of place as the two pretty leads. Even the other AIDS-afflicted villagers, played by Gu's wife Jiang Wenli, Wang Baoqiang and others, lack character development and are not particularly likable.

Gu does manage some effective emotions, especially during the film’s final scene. Still, these moments are not enough to save a film that should not have been released in its current form. Changing a film for commercial considerations is understandable, but Love For Life has lost far too many essential elements on its long road to the big screen. Gu Changwei does try to leave traces of social criticism in the film, but the AIDS element in the story is so diluted that the spotlighted disease might as well be SARS or the avian flu. Someday I’d like to see the longer version of Love for Life, but not because I want a deeper exploration of its social issues. I just want to see if the film finally makes sense. (Kevin Ma, 2011)


• Director Gu Changwei has stated that the 50 minutes of cut footage have not been properly finished and may never be, making the possiblity of a director's cut slim to none.
• In addition to Jiang Wen, directors Feng Xiaogang and Lu Chuan supposedly had cameos, but only Jiang's cameo remained in the finished product.
A documentary about the making of the film was made as a companion piece. Directed by Zhao Liang, Together follows several crew/cast members who are actually real-life AIDS patients, including Guo Zetao, the boy who plays Xin. It may actually be more interesting than Love for Life.


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Edko Films Ltd. (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin and Cantonese Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

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