It is 1989, and country girl Yu Hong leaves her village, her family and her lover to study in Beijing. At university, she discovers an intense world of sexual freedom and forbidden pleasure. Enraptured, compulsive, she falls madly in love with fellow student Zhou Wei.
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Authentic, raw Chinese epos about a country girl coming to Beijing and losing herself in a swirl of strong desires, confusion and obsessive passion. Set against the background of the 1989 Tianan Men incident, this is one of the best Chinese movies i ever saw. Lei Hao is a brillant actress.
The backgrounds in this movie really add a lot of symbolism for what’s going on in the foreground. For instance, the erratic string instrument playing from Yu Hong’s roommate shows her emotional breakdown, and the people rushing between her and her old lover when he came to visit show the distance that has formed between the two of them due to the people the Yu Hong has met. Overall a great movie for emotional types.
A complex love affair... historical events take a back seat to human emotions. The filming of the chaotic crowd scenes in and around Tiananmen Square were amazing... not in the center of the action, but at the edges. Very convincing.
European literary romanticism of the early XIXth century transposed into late XXth century China. And it works! Yu Hong's unsaid yearning for a bright future meets Tian'anmen's demonstrations. Masterpiece.
Quite frankly, this is one of the best films I’ve ever seen! If you’re a fan of “Suzhou River” and director Ye Lou’s style, then you’ll absolutely love “Summer Palace”. And how awesome was Lei Hao in this film! Her performance was so fearless and genuine that to call what she did "acting" would be a massive understatement. One word to describe this film: MASTERPIECE!
"An uncompromising account of lives that have been fleetingly lived to their fullest but ultimately lost to the state’s rewriting of modern history, Summer Palace is an exhilarating and deeply haunting experience." - John Berra, BFI.org
Or: The Unbearable Lightness of Beijing--an aka I'd be too embarrassed to posit if it weren't so unmistakably apt. Like Philip Kaufman's Kundera adaptation, SP is a sumptuous, voluptuous, tortuous tale of twin deliria: love and revolt. Exchange 1968 Prague for 1989 Beijing, refresh the doomed pair of ardent lovers accordingly, then let the superficial parallels ramify for 140 minutes purpled with swollen piano.