LAN YU: Drama. Starring Hu Jun, Liu Ye. Directed by Stanley Kwan. (Not rated. In Mandarin with English subtitles. 86 minutes. At the Castro.)
“Lan Yu” is a sexually frank film based on an anonymous Internet novel about a torrid romance between two Beijing men. But it’s really just old- fashioned melodrama, dressed up with lustrous cinematography and a few nods to history.
Pulpy and mesmerizing, the picture follows a tortured, decadelong affair between a young student and a rich businessman who wines, dines and disillusions him. Though the story touches on Tiananmen Square and homophobia, the backdrop falls away so Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan can focus on the men’s unshakable, if dysfunctional, bond.
Kwan lends a dark, smoky look to the movie. He shot it without government approval, which might explain the preponderance of indoor scenes and resulting motif of mussed beds and steamy bathrooms.
The businessman’s colleagues know about his sexuality, and he’s not shy about picking up joggers at a park
The film sometimes grows so dark that people’s faces are unreadable — either due to poor lighting or a rather enthusiastic attempt at noir.