Happy Times 幸福时光 (Xingfu shiguang) [2000] • China

I love Zhang Yimou when he does these common-people flicks. This one is funny, touching and real. A fifty-something guy, who so desperately wants to get married and have someone to snuggle with at night, ends up housing and employing the beautiful eighteen year old blind step-daughter of some really unattractive and overweight woman as a sign of his commitment. The fat woman doesn't want the girl because she is a hassle to take care of and the girl was abandoned and dumped on her by some previous loser dude anyway.

As part of his marriage scheme the man lies to the woman, telling her he is the manager of a hotel. But the hotel is nothing more than an abandoned bus in a park that a friend of his had convinced him to slap a coat of paint on and charge young couples to sit inside it and make out. The man had at first hired the daughter to clean up the bus between customers, but when the city hauls the bus away as part of a beautifying the parks campaign the guy is forced to find other means to employ the girl who possesses nothing but cleaning and massage skills. Him and several of his retired friends construct a massage parlor room inside an old warehouse and then take turns getting massages from the girl. He has to pay his friends to get the massages, and they in turn give the money to the girl for tips. The farce can't go on forever, as the guy doesn't have much money to begin with, and it doesn't.

There is some disagreement about how this film should have or could have ended. Suffice to say it's pretty sad, and left rather unresolved. So you just have to accept it and be kind of bummed out (but in a good way if you go for that kind of thing). Dong Jie turns in a sweet and convincing performance as the young blind girl. There is nothing creepy about the film at all. Ebert doesn't get it.

Director: Zhang Yimou
Starring: Benshan Zhao, Jie Dong, Lifan Dong, Biao Fu, Xuejian Li
IMDb 7.4/10 (2,306 votes)

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