‘Lost in Beijing’: Caustic film irritated Chinese censors

A crazy plot twist determines everything in “Lost in Beijing,” a movie that managed to incur the wrath of the Chinese censors. You can see why, on a couple of counts.

The movie could, on the one hand, have been called “Lust in Beijing.” Sex is at the root of the characters’ woes.

Pingguo (Fan Bingbing) works in a foot massage parlor owned by a hard-driving, supremely vulgar entrepreneur named Lin Dong (Tony Leung Ka-fai). She gets drunk one day and her boss takes advantage of her.

This happens just as her husband, An Kun (Tony Dawai) is looking in through the window of the office — he’s a window-washer.

An Kun goes to the boss’s wife (Elaine Jin), for blackmail or revenge or something. This visit becomes more interesting than he’d anticipated — too bad nobody’s washing the windows this time.

Everything changes with the big twist: Pingguo finds herself pregnant. Her husband sees this as yet another financial opportunity to hold against Lin Dong. Strangely enough, the boss man sees it as an opportunity, too.

“Lost in Beijing” is very direct about its basic idea: Money is the motivation for even the most personal human transactions here. Even the creation of a new life is just another economic issue.

Director Yu Li’s vision of modern-day Beijing is thus a caustic view of life there. One suspects that this, rather than the handful of sex scenes, is what got the movie officially dissed by the Chinese authorities.

The country is trying to apply happy faces over the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games, although that effort keeps cracking as the smiles turn into grimaces (China’s ties to Sudan, the erupting situation over Tibet — who can blame Steven Spielberg for walking away from his gig as an opening-ceremonies guru). Critical opinions like Yu Li’s are not, apparently, welcome at the moment; the producer, Fang Li, has been barred from the film industry for two years.

Does the film itself really justify the fuss? It’s a blunt object, somewhere between wacky fable and gritty reality. You won’t miss the point.

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