Critics' Pick

Summer Palace (Yihe yuan) (NR)

Drama 140 January 18, 2008
By Scott Foundas
In its broad strokes, mainland Chinese director Lou Ye's Summer Palace adheres to a hallowed tradition of American and European movies about idealistic collegiate youths becoming sexually and politically radicalized. Only instead of Berkeley or Paris in '68, the setting is Beijing in the late 1980s, where Yu Hong (the excellent Lei Hao) arrives to begin her studies just as student unrest simmers. The film's explicit sexuality rivals Ang Lee's recent Lust, Caution; Lou is clearly a believer that if you liberate the body, the mind will soon follow, which is precisely what Yu Hong sets about doing in the company of the broodingly handsome Zhou Wei (Xiaodong Guo). Lou's penchant for florid poeticism and jolting narrative ellipses sometimes threatens to bring the whole house of cards tumbling down, but what never lessens is the movie's rapturous eroticism.
Lou Ye Xiaodong Guo, Ling Hu, Xianmin Zhang, Lin Cui, Long Duan, Lei Hao, Chi Le Lou Ye, Feng Mei, Ma Yingli Sylvain Bursztejn, Li Fang, Ye Lou, An Nai Palm Pictures