Koch on Film
By Ed Koch
“Lost in Beijing” (-)
Because the rape scene this film, directed by Li Yu, was deemed too provocative, the movie was banned in China. Remember, it was only after Chairman Mao’s death that men and women in that country, who wore indistinguishable clothing, were allowed to walk hand-in-hand in public. The rape scene, during which very little skin is exposed, will not visually shock American audiences. We are fed a steady diet of much more graphic scenes.
The film opens in the Gold Basin Massage Palace in Beijing where the female employees provide foot and back massages to their customers. A country woman, Ping-guo (Fan Bingbing), is one of the employees. When her employer, Mr. Lin (Tony Leung Ka Fai), finds her drunk and passed out in the office one day, he takes advantage of her drunken state and rapes her. Ping-guo’s husband, An-kun (Tong Da Wei), a window washer, witnesses the rape. Ping-guo discovers that she is pregnant, and the question is, who is the father of the child? She and her husband attempt to extort money from Mr. Lin. At this point, the film becomes a boring soap opera.
What I found interesting were the scenes of modern-day Beijing. What an eye opener! High-rise buildings everywhere. I visited China in 1979 when Westerners in that country were still rare. People would follow me and my companions down the street for blocks. Friendship stores, as they were called, sold merchandise left there on consignment. A stranger at a Peking hotel told me to buy whatever I liked and could afford, because chances were I would never return. That was good advice which I now offer to my friends who are traveling. I bought two jade horses in China which conjure up fond memories of my trip whenever I look at them.
So back to the picture. To sum up, if you are interested in a thought-provoking film, this is not the one to see. If, however, you are interested in seeing a little bit of modern-day China and how that country has changed since Chairman Mao, whom they still revere, you might want to see it. His picture still dominates the entrance to The Forbidden City at Tiananmen Square.
When I was in that famous square, it was crowded in the late afternoon with Chinese workers returning home on their bicycles. In the film, the square appears to be filled will cars. Because of stupid trade policies, General Motors sold China a license to build Cadillacs. Chinese workers are paid $1.50 an hour while General Motor pays its workers approximately $26.00 an hour. I prefer the bicycles, so long as I am in my car. HS said: This is a movie which, if it were made in say, Chicago, and the characters spoke English, there would be absolutely no reason to see. The high-rise buildings and highways of Beijing show us that overdevelopment is not unique to New York. You also learn a lot about foot massages, which do not seem erotic. It is odd that the picture was banned in China for the rape sequences. All you see is a couple of heavy-set men’s butts. All the titles are listed in English and Chinese, which is a novelty. I recommend it for daytime TV, not as an $11 nighttime movie. (In Mandarin, with English subtitles.)