Screened as part of NZIFF 2001
Ning Ying’s vivid, rueful film offers a view of twenty-first century Beijing, unprecedented in the movies. She shows us a city undergoing bewildering change as it embraces capitalism and an increasingly diverse, and, if we are to believe her, alienated population.
Recently divorced taxi driver Desi is involved in a series of short-lived relationships with women from different strata of Beijing society: a migrant waitress from Northeast China, a glamorous primary school teacher, a popular radio show host and finally a peasant from the countryside. Relentlessly cruising the busy streets in his cab, Desi engages in his quixotic search for love while facing the disorder and confusion of a city in a visible state of flux. Gao Fei’s propulsive camerawork discovers a Beijing of night-time motorways, full of pounding nightclubs and mammoth shopping malls, where traditional Chinese ideals are swamped by Western values. — BG
Of the many Asian films that I saw in Berlin, Ning Ying’s sad and funny I Love Beijing was by far the most incisive. The filmmaker uses a young cab driver’s philandering sex life as a metaphor for the confusion of appetites in Beijing’s rush toward a capitalist future. Ning shows us a city being rebuilt inch by inch with jaw-dropping speed. Amid the towering skyscrapers, billboards feature women in scanty lingerie; the primary topic of conversation is money. ‘I am the person who loves Beijing,’ said the director at her press conference, ‘but I am an abandoned lover, because Beijing no longer has a use for me.’ — Amy Taubin, Village Voice, 25/2/01
In the brief span of just ten years I have seen my city, Beijing, going through astonishing transformations. I first set out to explore Beijing in 1992 with the feature For Fun, a comedy about disappearing traditional ways of life. In 1995, with the black-humoured On the Beat, I focused on the emerging new reality and the difficulty of coping with it. In this new film, I Love Beijing, the magnitude of changes shaping our lives and the anxieties of the new generation, are represented in a rhapsody form, through the eyes of a young, restless taxi driver. When I look back at these three films I cannot but regard them as completing a trilogy about three generations of Beijingers: the grandfathers (For Fun), the parents (On the Beat) and the sons (I Love Beijing). — Ning Ying