Projections - Movie Reviews

Shower Shower

Water is used for all of its cleaning, refreshing effects, but the actions of the characters washing themselves or being doused are often more revealing than what they say in the delicately funny and affecting Chinese drama, Shower.

The second outing for helmer Zhang Yang (Spicy Love Soup) is an impressive and appealing character piece that draws nicely off of strained family ties and friendships as Zhang, with four other collaborating scenarists, delve into the split between China's past and technological present.  One thing that is constant in a film mostly set in a dilapidated Beijing bathhouse is a functionally simplistic approach to life, even in thoughtful moments.

An amusing start has the busy, successful corporate Da Ming (Pu Cunxin) taking a shower in a high tech stall that cleans a human in an auto wash manner with a rotating floor plate.  Soon, the picture shifts to a formerly busy establishment, now catering to mostly middle aged patrons.

Here, when not relaxing in the multi tiled pools, there's mingling, enjoying tea, chess, and betting on rival crickets.  The eroding community center is set to be demolished and turned into a shopping mall, but its proprietor, Master Liu (Zhu Xu) has a way of running things smoothly, even though he sees the end of his soothing water world.

Liu's oldest son, Da Ming, arrives in this spring haven, having spent years accruing wealth in the southern metropolitan Shenzhen.  He's back thinking his dad has died because of a cryptic post card sent by his younger brother, Er Ming, acted with jolly righteousness by Jiang Wu, (A Beautiful New World).  This retro habitat doesn't settle well with Da Ming who favors showers over the Beijing baths.

When Er Ming turns up missing, a reconciliation between Da Ming and Liu begins to develop after a clashing exchange that underlines the elder son's selfishness.  Da Ming feels a familial pull learning of the upcoming demolition.  But, after helping with a roof leak during a thunderstorm, the manager catches a bad cold, and suddenly Da Ming's life is altered dramatically.

How water is important in the rite of passage is depicted strikingly in two meditative scenes using the perspective of the aging father and his retarded son.  The impact of sound and the teal hues fogging the bath scenes add to the experience.

Although using running water to make a chunky teen belt out "O Sole Mio," to overcome stage fright seems odd, Zhang makes this cascade worth sitting through because of the way Pu and Jiang understate their parts and Zhu displays a gentle command of the past.


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