Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Wen Jiang, Wei Zhao, Lijun Fang, Haizhen Wang, Yuan Zhang
Director: Yuan Zhang
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Lang Lang was a beautiful girl making a living by working at a night bar, accompanying her customers and entertaining them with guitar. Wu Fang, a graduate student, always ordered a glass of green tea at match-making arran... more »
As Far As Romances Go, This Is About As Perfect As Humanly I
Anticlimacus | 01/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I first rented "Lu Cha" (aka "Green Tea"), I was expecting a typical movie. What I got was the single greatest romance film in motion picture history.
The first (and most obvious) compliment to be made is with regard to the cinematography and scoring - which are simply magnificent. The opening 5 minutes are mind-blowing in terms of sheer style. Jiang Wen enters the coffee shop and the beautiful Zhao Wei is caught in a slow-motion tracking shot that is complimented with a catchy score of string instruments and beats - a scene that I fear will wear out the "Rewind" button on my remote control. And who would have thought that tea leaves swirling in a glass of hot water could be so mesmerizing? Listen folks, sequences like these are the reason cameras were made.
The acting is also top notch. My first experience with Zhao Wei was the action film "So Close" (2002), which (despite being one of my personal favorites) wasn't exactly demanding of her talents. "Lu Cha" was the film that convinced me of her exceptional acting ability. One scene in particular that grabs me every time is when Zhao talks about her friend who can read tea leaves. She raises an eyebrow and taps the side of her drinking glass in such a natural way that I begin to forget that I'm watching an actress because her character is realism personified. It might sound like a trivial thing, but when you string a bunch of seemingly trivial, realistic mannerisms together over the course of 90 minutes, you end up with a great acting performance - and Zhao Wei has definitely "in the zone" while making this film. Jiang Wen compliments her very well, but one can tell that Zhao is doing the leading here.
Intelligence and complexity are frequently showcased in movies from countries who make quality romance films on a consistent basis (Japan, China, South Korea, etc.). "Lu Cha" is a glorious example. It's no surprise to read reviews by viewers who are confused at some of the meaning behind certain scenes. For example, we see a middle aged man who is (inaudibly) yelling at the camera outside a window, only to then walk away angrily. Notice how he reacts to his beat-up car in disgust, which reflects the fact that he was of middle class wealth (at best). I had some difficulty understanding what this scene meant, until I realized that the previous conversation between Zhao and her blind date was about materialism. Her date attempts to promote idealism and spirituality, but Zhao counters with stories about her friend who only dates rich men for their endearing qualities. Zhao apparently didn't like this date very much, which explains why she turns his tactics against him in an effort to make him angry - which apparently worked. The strength of the script is evident in this scene because during the blind date the man is not shown on camera (a frequent strategy in "Lu Cha"). You only see him after the date is over, which forces the viewer to connect his reaction and car condition to the previous conversation. This is a heck of a lot more entertaining than the Hollywood method, which would simply have a wide shot of both persons talking and insulting each other with inept dialogue.
This movie is jam-packed with these hyper-intelligent set pieces. One scene has the camera cut to Jiang's cigarette ash falling, which means that he's so gripped on Zhao's story that he completely forgets that a cigarette is in his hand. The scene where Jiang pulls the shirt over his eyes and looks from outside the window represents how affected he has become by her story. The girl in his friend's bed plays with the viewer's mind in thinking that it could possibly be Zhao because his buddy covers her up immediately, but a few minutes later she is revealed to be a different woman. In yet another scene the personalities of Zhao begin to overlap each other when her piano persona begins to drink green tea and talk about her mother who has a glove factory (which is a reference to her graduate girl persona's story).
This is nothing less than a non-stop exhibition of amazing scriptwriting. I can think of no other romance film that peppers the viewer with such cerebral exercise, and it benefits greatly from it. Stuff like this is the reason I don't watch American movies anymore. It's not that I'm snobby or an art-house freak. It's because East Asian romance films kick their American counterparts up and down the block like rag dolls. It's not even close.
I lose sleep with the horrid thought of missing the sheer enjoyment of watching a magnificent film like "Lu Cha" due to ignorance or cultural narrow-mindedness. It's certainly no help to have a bunch of no-talent corporate suits in Hollywood consistently shoving advertisements for their endless stream of crappy little titles down my throat on a daily basis in an attempt to sell their garbage through media bombardment. I feel incredibly lucky that I decided to start watching romance films outside of America. No looking back now, I can tell you that much.
In conclusion, "Lu Cha" is a perfect romance film. It's current IMDb rating of 6.9 is way too low. This sucker should be at 8.0 or above. It's incredibly rare that a film can captivate me for every single second of its running time. This is one of them."
A Saturated Romance
Phillip Royer | San Francisco | 04/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I watched this film twice in a row. Once with Chinese subtitles that didn't stay on the screen long enough for me to read them completely, forcing me to stop and rewind ten seconds a bunch of times--which completely busted up the impressive audio/visual meter of the film--and a second time without the subs so I could luxuriate in its sensuous overload.
Some of the films Zhang Yuan has made in the past got him officially banned from making films in China for a period of time. I like to call these bannings 'time-outs' because they are childish ... but I digress. Green Tea is not one of those films. It will (and does) disappoint the political types who prefer a little pedantry in their perceptual preoccupations and those who fight to find a true meaning in that which doesn't always have or need it and get frustrated when a loophole appears. Waste of time, that.
One of the first things you need to know about this film is that its cinematographer is Christopher Doyle, the man responsible for the look of most Wong Kar-wai films: saturated colors and extreme camera angles. You'll find them here in spades. He was also the cinematographer on Zhang Yimou's Hero (2002), one of the most beautiful films ever made. With that in mind, you have a pretty good hint that with Green Tea you're in store for something a little different from director Zhang Yuan.
This is a beautiful film, a colorful love poem to, about, and starring, Chinese actress Zhao Wei (a.k.a. Vicki Zhao). The woman is photographed so adoringly it's almost creepy. She plays two different and distinct roles in the film: a bespectacled graduate student and a sultry piano lounge singer--so librarian fetishists and jazzy drunks alike can fantasize out loud. The funny part, though, is that we're supposed to play along with the notion that donning a pair of bookish glasses suddenly makes Zhao one of those women "who become attractive over time", ya know, ugly. Yeah, right.
Zhao's graduate student character, Fang, is a serial blind-dater, anxious to find someone to marry, unwilling or unable to rid herself of a guy who is pretty sure she will become attractive over time. She does. So much so that when he meets her doppleganger, Lang, in the piano lounge, a woman reputed to be 'easy', he finds himself ever more drawn to Fang--probably because she is so hard. He is sure they are the same woman but Lang denies it and they strike up a friendly relationship filled with discussions of life and love. There is mature sexual politics running throughout the film for those who can't ingest ice cream without meat but you needn't get bogged down by it. This film is so thick on the surface its depth becomes subtle. Beyond the ambiguous nature of the doppleganger scenario, there is also the story Fang relates to her suitor--which runs the length of the film infusing all the characters--about a friend who reads people's fortunes in tea leaves, may or may not actually be Fang, who witnessed her mother kill her father, and stuff like that. Fang suggests she might just be making it all up. Her suitor doesn't care because fact and fiction reveal equally, but it starts to get complicated when details of the story begin to emerge in the real life of Lang ... who may or may not be Fang.
Green Tea is a gloriously gorgeous and fun ride. It's arty and complicated, maybe a little loose. The conversations and games of cat and mouse are witty and smart but at times you may find yourself more interested in trying to peer around something which seems to be in the way of what is being photographed. Stuff like that happens in this intelligent romance."