Yang + Yin

That Zhang would make such a strainingly cute film—with a blind orphan at its center, no less—indicates where his ambitions have wandered. The material is broad, but Zhang exercises capable restraint, ensuring that the tender repartee never escalates into vaudeville. (As Zhao's reluctant buddy and wary financier, Li Xuejian is a quiet riot.) Schmaltz served in a hand-painted cup, Happy Times culminates in a Chekhovian complement of two narrated letters that have a mutually corresponding force the rest of the film only hints at. By then, our hopes have fatally diminished.

Tender comrades: Liu and Hu in Lan Yu
photo: Strand Releasing
Tender comrades: Liu and Hu in Lan Yu


Lan Yu
Directed by Stanley Kwan
Written by Jimmy Ngai
Opens July 26 at the Quad

Happy Times
Directed by Zhang Yimou
Written by Gui Zi
Sony Pictures Classics
Opens July 26

The Kid Stays in the Picture
Directed by Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein
Opens July 26

Meanwhile, in the Beverly Hills of the American mind, the new hagio-stool The Kid Stays in the Picture is somehow being deemed newsworthy—and releasable. Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein's showbiz doc isn't merely based upon Robert Evans's self-serving autobiography; it is absolutely nothing more than Evans reading his book aloud as narration over digitized publicity shots, film clips, and roving-camera tours of his house. No interviews mitigate Evans's first-person account of his charmed life, or his laughable tough-guy patois; even Behind the Music does more research. As you'd expect, Coppola and Polanski are pegged as brilliant nuisances who were never as integral to the successes of The Godfather and Chinatown as Evans was himself. The movie's only discernible purpose is as publicity for the book. An admitted egomaniac, Evans is no Hollywood villain, and yet this grating showcase almost makes you wish he'd gone the way of Don Simpson. Instead, he'll probably get an Irving Thalberg award.

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