It's no secret that I've been a big fan of foreign language films since forever. I discovered Chinese language cinema in 2005 when, as a third culture kid, I was first exposed to all that it has to offer. I started with Hong Kong movies, for which I blame New Police Story, followed shortly by ever so popular Taiwanese dramas, such as It Started with a Kiss and Devil Beside You. After years of watching every Korean drama out there (slight overexaggeration) I recently decided to check out some newer Chinese movies. Here's what I watched, and why these films will make you want to discover the realm of Chinese cinema.
1. Go Away Mr. Tumor (2015)
Go Away Mr. Tumor is easily one of the best foreign language films I have seen this year, and in a quite a while for that matter. Hence it doesn't surprise me that this comedy-drama was selected as the Chinese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. It better be short-listed and make it into the final 5, I'm just sayin'. Based on a true story, this heartwarming tale follows the life of Xiong Dun, who is beautifully portrayed by Bai Bai He, an optimistic and imaginative woman, as she struggles with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Enter Dr. Liang, played by Daniel Wu, Xiong Dun's treating physician whom she develops a major crush on. Bubbly and extrovert as she is, Xiong manages to leave a lasting imprint on an introvert Dr. Liang's heart.
What I like most about this film is the optimism it oozes and its emphasis on the importance of the support of family and friends. Xiong's adorkable personality, along with her fantastic support system, bring so much heart to the movie that you won't be able to hold back the tears. The chemistry between Bai and Wu is obvious, and the friendship their characters develop is genuine, and both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Though their relationship isn't a romantic one, their relationship clearly exceeds the boundaries of friendship, which is beautifully portrayed in their final conversation. I highly suggest you grab those tissues because you're going to be bawling your eyes out.
2. Women Who Flirt (2014)
One of the things that doesn't always translate well is humor, but with Women Who Flirt director Pang Ho-cheung proves is it definitely possible. This Chinese-Hong Kong romantic-comedy will have you laughing out loud, I promise. Starring powerhouse Zhou Xun, one of the "Four Dan Actresses" of China, and Huang Xiaoming, Women Who Flirt tells the story of two close friends, Angie and Marco, stuck in a messy love triangle. Angie has always loved Marco but Marco sees her more as a brother. Yes, a brother. Things get uncomfortable when Marco starts seeing someone and Angie must turn to her over the top friends to teach her how to flirt in order to win Marco back.
Though Zhou Xun is the obvious heart and soul of the movie, her girl squad is hilarious and will make you seriously consider trying to pick up guys using your best baby voice. Women Who Flirt is probably not be the best Chinese film you will see but it is most definitely entertaining in the most ridiculously fun way.
3. A Beautiful Life (2011)
If you're even the tiniest bit familiar with Hong Kong or Chinese cinema, then the name Andrew Lau will ring a bell. Lau is the talented man behind the Infernal Affairs trilogy, the films that inspired Martin Scorsese's remake, the Academy Award winning The Departed. In my opinion, A Beautiful Life is split into two parts, with a strange and hysterical first half and a serious, heartbreaking second half. It follows the life of real-estate agent Li Peiru, portrayed by Taiwanese actress Shu Qi, who seems to have a bit of an alcohol problem. We first meet her drunk at a karaoke bar, seducing her married boss. This is where she first runs into Fang Zhendong, a lonely police officer played by Liu Ye, but it definitely isn't the last these two will see of each other.
"It's not about responsibility. I'm in love with her." - Fang Zhendong
When Peiru finds out her lover is cheating on her with another, she starts to use and abuse Fang Zhendong to her benefit. They lose touch but manage to find their way back to one another, but not after Fang Zhendong is diagnosed with a serious condition. Their time apart has made Peiru appreciate just how much he has done for her. Their story is one hell of a ride, melancholic as much as it is heartwarming. Shu Qi and Liu Ye play polar opposites but complement each other so beautifully in this fantastic romantic drama that will make you laugh out loud and cry your eyes out.