Luxury Car


Duane Byrge
A man from the country ventures to the big city to find his lost son only to discover he may have lost his daughter. In this melodramatic Chinese film from Wang Chao, the only interesting spin is that the old man is an intellectual long exiled to the country by Mao's fascistic henchmen during the Cultural Revolution. Predictable and narratively uninspired, this Un Certain Regard entrant is unlikely to generate interest beyond its homeland.

Once they've seen Paree, you can't keep them down on the farm -- especially in emerging China, where twentysomething Li Yan Hong (Tian Yuan) has ventured to the big city and, like many country girls before her, found work in a house of ill repute. In this spin, she smiles and a whole lot more as an escort at a Vegas-style karaoke club. When her papa (Wu You Cai) arrives, it's the same old story: Keep the bad news from Daddy as long as you can. In this case, it doesn't take long for the old countryman to get the picture, especially when he's met by her roommates' frillies hanging across apartment entranceway as well as stumbles upon a visiting "client."

While the story line slogs through the predictability of Papa's finding out, it veers into a subplot involving the old man's lost son and young woman's brother. He simply hasn't written in years, and the old man sets out to find him. A sympathetic policeman (Li Yi Qing) takes him into the deeper bowels of the big city, and, as you might guess, the young girl's thug/karaoke-owner boyfriend (Wang Hong) had something to do with the boy's "disappearance."

A slight film noir spun around a family plot, "Luxury Car" features no surprises, and Wang's storytelling is slow and plodding. Audiences will see everything coming long before it is painstakingly detailed.

Nevertheless, the performances are subtle and smart, especially Wu as the cagey father. As the wayward daughter, Chinese pop star Tian is both tender and seductive.

"Luxury Car" is nicely polished by director of photography Liu Yong Hong's glossy cityscape illuminations.

Rosem Films and Bai Bu Ting Media in co-production with Arte France Cinema with the support of the Fonds Sud Cinema-CNC

Credits: Screenwriter-director: Wang Chao; Producers: Sylvain Buyrsztejin, Mao Yong Hong; Director of photography: Liu Yong Hong; Editor: Tao Wen; Art director: Li Wen Bo; Music: Xiao He.

Cast: The Father: Wu You Cai; The Daughter: Tian Yuan.

No MPAA rating, running time 88 minutes.