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Featured DVD Review: Luxury Car

December 26th, 2009

This is the third film in writer / director Wang Chao's informal trilogy on modern China. It premiered at Cannes in 2006 and generated enough buzz that it won the Prix un certain regard prize, a.k.a., A Film of a Certain Regard. This first film, The Orphan of Anyang, won a multitude of awards at film festivals worldwide, while Night and Day won the Golden Montgolfiere award at the Nantes Three Continents Festival. However, while his movies have high quality, he hasn't been able to build an audience here. Will this film be the one that finally earns him the attention he deserves?

Wu Youcai plays Li Qi Ming, an older man from the rural part of China that has come to Wuhan, a typical Chinese city, to find his son, who disappeared a couple of years ago. His wife is dying of cancer and wants to talk to him one last time. There he meets his daughter, Li Yan Hong (Tian Yuan), who left the country for the city to build a better life for herself. However, she is currently working as an escort at a karaoke club run by He Ge, who has some connections to organized crime and who got out of prison just a couple of years earlier. He is also Li Yan Hong's boyfriend of sorts, or at least the mostly likely person to have got her pregnant. Helping Li Qi Ming is a police detective (Li Yi Qing) who like Li Qi Ming is an older man and nearing retirement age. As they ride around the city looking for clues, they seem to get a break, but the detective starts to think that He Ge might have something to do with the boy's disappearance.

This movie deals with a similar subject matter with a similar style to Wang Chao's previous films. Specifically, it examines with China's transition from a communist state to a capitalist economy and how some people are not only being left behind, but are being set up as likely victims the criminal element that is exploiting the gap between rich and poor. Stylistically, the film has a deliberate pace, which may be too deliberate for some. (In fact, when the movie has a climatic action scene, it feels out of place. Not only that, it is arguably the weakest element of the film. Strong performances throughout help the film connect emotionally and there is some replay value here.

Extras on the DVD are very limited with some DVD-ROM features: .pdf files for the director's interview and a fact sheet.

The Verdict

For those interested in a look at the new Chinese world and how the balance between modern and traditional has been upset, Luxury Car is worth checking out. However, with a near featureless DVD I think for most a rental will be enough.

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