I expected something tepid and tormented, like "East Palace West Palace" and instead found a wonderful drama about the China of the 80s and 90s.
A successful businessman sees, at a fancy party, a young man brought to the party by another attendee. He and a co-worker decide to pounce: they take him (Lan Yu) out and treat him royally. The young man winds up staying with the businessman, who gives him money, but is ambivalent about whether he wants to see Lan Yu again. He feels that he can have relationships and remain unattached.
Lan Yu shows up periodically over the course of years, and the businessman gives him larger and larger gifts, including a fancy house in the suburbs. But the businessman meets a woman who translates for him in a deal he's making with Russians. He decides to marry the woman. Lan Yu will not put up with it and refuses to see the businessman.
The businessman's shady deals get him into trouble, and he loses almost everything. Then Lan Yu comes back into the picture and . . . (I'll leave it there).
Besides being a wonderful melodrama, this is also a hot gay film. Full frontal and dorsal nudity, some sex. The men are hairless and sexy, but real. Lots of kissing.
And all the time you're wondering: did they actually film this in China? Do they allow this in China? How did they get away with this....It must have been filmed in Hong Kong. Well, according to the Sundance website, this was filmed in China, and based on a short story that appeared only on the Internet.
It's by far my favorite Chinese movie, and if you're interested in gay life in the new China, this is the one to see.