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Freedom & Defiance: The Cinema of Lou Ye

MUBI Special

In a country which regularly censors its most defiant artists, Lou Ye is one of the foremost cinematic iconoclasts in contemporary China. His films resist his native country’s moral and political criteria in the name of giving voice to the oppressed, and those who choose to boldly defy the state. Previously banned from his country for 5 years for having confronted the subject of Tiananmen Square protests in Summer Palace, Lou Ye has persisted onward with a rare political bravery to express an always complicated cinematic vision of youth, romance and modernity in China and beyond.


Lou Ye China, 2012


Lou Ye takes aim at a range of traditional machinations in this dense, deceptive thriller of infidelities, class divisions, and murder. Deftly balancing the titular enigma with an arresting melodrama, Mystery is engrossing political filmmaking with an enveloping emotional core from start to finish.

Love and Bruises

Lou Ye France, 2011


The 2nd film in our Lou Ye retro was made during the director’s exile for having made Summer Palace. Ever dedicated to confronting exploitation in all walks of life, Love and Bruises tackles abuse as experienced by a young woman in an impassioned yet toxic relationship. Difficult, yet necessary.

Summer Palace

Lou Ye China, 2006


After his memory-clouded Purple Butterfly, Lou Ye opted for greater directness in his next romance, set among Beijing students during the 1980s. Featuring both Chinese film’s first full nudity and overt reference to the Tiananmen Square police action, he was banned from filmmaking for 5 years.

Purple Butterfly

Lou Ye China, 2003


Today we begin our retrospective of 6th Generation Chinese director: the great, subversive Lou Ye. He followed his Wong Kar-wai inspired hit Suzhou River with this gorgeous 1930s wartime love story that bends and warps time, memory, trauma and romance between lovers separated by war and nation.

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Every day we hand-pick a beautiful new film and you have a whole month to watch it, so there’s always 30 perfectly curated films to discover.