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2 May 2012

Love and Bruises

An empty and pretentious rendition of a borderline sadomasochist romance.

Director: Lou Ye

Screenplay: Lou Ye, Liu Jie Falin

Cast: Corinne Yam, Tahar Rahim, Sifan Shao

Hua (Corinne Yam) has just come to Paris from Beijing. It is almost by accident that she meets Mathieu (Tahar Rahim), a construction worker who lacks culture and sophistication. The two literally meet by accident — Mathieu involuntarily hits Hua with a pole he is carrying at work. An inexplicable drive pushes Hua towards this man who represents the unknown, and they fall into a frenzied relationship comprised of passion, sex and verbal abuse.

French cinema and literature has been big on pained interracial romance since Marguerite Duras' The Lover. Viewed in that light Love and Bruises, a collaboration between Lou Ye and French-Chinese novelist Liu-Jie Falin, plays like a poor man's Duras with the genders reversed, and its Orientalist angst intact.  It starts with a sequence where Mathieu practically rapes Hua in a dark alley after an apologetic dinner. Continuing from there, the film is almost not much more than a series of above the waist shot sex scenes punctuated by meaningless heavy breathing, painful moans and physical abuse.

There are some twists that arrive: especially when Mathieu blindly loans Hua to a colleague of his and where he rapes her, and where Hua simply moves back to Beijing for no apparent reason at all to work as an interpreter, that the film seems to receive a few jolts of life, much more than its repetitive and boring sex scenes will allow. The film gets interesting especially when Hua especially meets some of her acquaintances back home, and they come off far more interesting and multidimensional than Mathieu and his French roughnecks.

The film is also technically every bit as repetitive and pointless as it is storywise; barring Peyman Yazdanian's moody score, Yu Lik Wai's shaky lensing, Juliette Welfling's disjunctive editing seem to hammer it over and over again into your head that this is a couple that are not made for each other at all but can't resist each other anyway, all with dour humourlessness. This is an empty and pretentious rendition of a borderline sadomasochist romance with little texture and variation.

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