Zhang Hanlin, a 3A student currently in Columbia University completing his dual degree, writes about the Franco-Chinese drama film Love and Bruises.
When a foreign observer is put onto the street of Paris, it usually ends up with a cliché sightseeing mixture of café, Champs-Elysée, and Eiffel Tower. Yet for Hua, the female protagonist in the Franco-Chinese film Love and Bruises by Lou Ye, the city witnessed her intense and destructive romance. This young Chinese scholar of sociology and French found herself arriving in Paris in search of her old lover, getting turned down, and lost on the street. She accidentally encountered Mathieu, a French workman who assembles and disassembles the temporary street market for a living. Their entanglement starts with Mathieu date raping Hua and develops as a long-term freak love.
While fascinated by her beautiful, expressive and straightforward lover, Hua is constantly surrounded by troubles associated with his complex life and personality. She once finds herself surreally sitting in a car with Mathieu holding a stolen artwork on their way back from a nightclub where they just exhausted much passion and desire. Hua also discovers Mathieu already married and involved in a marital fraud, which became a huge headache for her. The puzzle of this man simply overwhelms her. Due to the huge gap in their education, social classes, and cultural background, their worlds function on completely different sets of rules. Hua always finds herself in a state of chaos, violence, and lawlessness whenever she enters Mathieu’s life. Clashing in between Mathieu’s heterotopia and her tranquille world of middle-class petit-bourgeois intellectuals, she lived a real dilemma and contradiction. When she decided to terminate this romantic suffering and returned to Beijing, the blankness of life started to hurt and reminded her of the complicated affairs left in France. The audience may find it perplexing or even disturbing to understand their love and choices, as well as the multiple explicit sexual scenes in this film. Yet it remains a heuristic for us to recall, relate, and reflect on our own stories.
Experiences of love and bruises may vary individual by individual. Yet the stories of Hua bear high resemblance to those of the director Lou Ye. Lou Ye features for presenting sexuality, obsession, and politically sensitive issues in his films. He was banned from filmmaking for five years by Chinese censors for submitting his earlier film Summer Palace, which contains the 1989 Tian’anmen protest and explicit sexual scenes, to the 2006 Cannes Festival. In fact, this Franco-Chinese film shot in France is the byproduct of this ban. His particular focus on humanity and the harsh reality of filmmaking in China make him clash between two ‘alien’ contexts: a cultural one and a political one.
This film might not please everyone, but it proves particularly resonant among certain audience as an illustration of special intercultural experiences. Those who finds the film a ‘coup de coeur’ may also wish to consult the original novel Hua (《花》) by Jie Liu-Falin. If I were to live the rest of my life with only one book, Hua would be a strong candidate in my basket.
Featured image: Lou Ye. Love and Bruises. Wild Bunch. 2011