Starring Ge You and Shu Qi. In Mandarin with English subtitles. Rated G.
In most countries, and in most years, nine of the top ten box-office hits will be Hollywood blockbusters and one a locally-produced comedy. These low-budget farces rely upon inside jokes and local colour for effect. As a rule, they do not travel well, being too specific to tickle the “universal” funny-bone.
China belongs to that minority of nations that enjoy a greater degree of domestic cinematic success, but that does not mean that the People’s Republic eschews this genre. Far from it. All it means, really, is that Westerners rarely get to see such examples.
Fei Cheng Wu Rao II (If You Are The One II) is an exception to this rule. Feng Xiaogang’s follow-up to his 2008 hit is no 24 City or House of Flying Daggers. Nevertheless, there are things said in this unabashedly populist movie that you won’t find in the works of Jia Zhangke and Zhang Yimou.
Two years have passed, and inventor Qin Fen (Ge You) and Liang Xiaoxiao (Shu Qi) still haven’t tied the knot. To be sure, he’s 20 years older than her, and their closest friends are getting divorced. Nevertheless, they decide on a “trial marriage” that will take place in an idyllic seaside resort.
Atypically, a large chunk of this film is consumed by funerals and death. There are funny parts, to be sure, but the same could be said of House.
For outsiders, what is perhaps most interesting is the clash of social attitudes. Virtually everyone we see is well-off in a land where everyone “was poor” just 30 years earlier. Business tycoons have qualms about their fortunes, wonder if life is really a spiritual journey, and wax ecstatic when their offspring decide that Karl Marx is “cool”.
Rorschach blots, anybody?