Believe in Yourself
Release Date: July 26, 2002
Starring: Zhao Bensham, Dong Lihua, Li
Xuejian, Dong Jie, and Leng
Audience: Older children and adults
Runtime: 106 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Zhang Yimou
Producer: Yang Qinglong, Zhang Weiping
and Zhao Yu
Writer: Zhang Yimou
Address Comments To:
Michael Barker, Tom Bernard & Marcie Bloom
Sony Pictures Classics
550 Madison Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 833-8833
Web Page: www.spe.sony.com
(RoRo, AC, H, L, V, S, A, D, MM) Romantic worldview with an undertone of Anti-Communist content and a humanist premise; about nine obscenities (some “f” words) as well as suggestive sexual comments; truck hits man, blood shown, man beaten up, man gets black eye, and psychological abuse of blind girl; Chinese men decorate broken-down bus to be a sexual hideaway for couples; alcohol and smoking; and, lying and deception condoned as major plot point.
HAPPY TIMES is a Chinese movie about a middle-aged man who finds some relief from his loneliness when he tries to help a young blind girl whose abused by the man’s overweight fiancée. This subtle exposé of the Chinese Communist society is limited by its lackluster portrait of hope, a few “f” words, and some suggestive sexual comments.
HAPPY TIMES, a subtitled Chinese movie by famous director Zhang Yimou, opens with an over-50 bachelor Zhao talking at lunch with an unattractive, overweight, middle-aged Chinese woman. Zhao proposes to her. She responds, “I’ve been married two times before.” He says, “I like women with experience.” She says she has children. He says he loves children. She points out that she’s overweight. He says he’s always wanted a big woman to keep him warm. She says, “A wedding will cost 50,000 yen.” He says he’ll get the money.
Zhao hurries to find his best friend, Li, to get a loan. Li tries to escape Zhao on his bicycle but is entrapped. Li suggests they paint up an old bus in the middle of a downtown park and charge people to use it for their romantic liaisons. As soon as they paint the bus red and put in a bed, couples start coming. One gives Zhao 100 yen.
Meanwhile, Zhao’s relationship with his beloved is becoming more complex. She has a fat obnoxious son and a step-daughter, Wu, who is blind and whom she treats like Cinderella. Zhao gives Wu some ice cream. As soon as Zhao leaves, the stepmother grabs the ice cream and sends Wu to do the dishes. The next time, she tells him, “Get Wu out of here.” Zhao takes Wu to the Happy Times Hotel bus, but the city is cleaing up the park and hauling it away. He takes pity on Wu and, with his friends, converts a rundown factory into a massage parlor for her to work. (This is not a sexual massage parlor, by the way.) His friends pretend to be clients and pretend to pay Wu with paper money.
HAPPY TIMES are not. Zhao’s compassion ends in disaster. The very weak message is, “Believe in yourself.” Zhao is confronted for his lying, but he persists, not because he is trying to harm people but because he’s trying to help people.
He goes to get a loan from the factory. The manager says, "Of course, fill out these forms." Zhao asks, “When do I get the money?” The manager says "Never. No one is working, so the factory isn’t making any money."
In this and many other ways, filmmaker Zhang Ymou dramatizes the famous Communist dictum, the workers pretend to work; the Party pretends to pay us. For those who have an inkling of the dry rot which is Communism, it is easy to see the director grinding his ax. The only one who really sees what’s happening is the blind Wu. All of the sighted people are caught up in the mass deception.
This subtle exposé of the Chinese Communist society is limited by its lackluster portrait of hope. The final answer is faith in yourself. Also woven into the story are several references that Wu could be treated for her blindness if she could get to America. America may have better hospitals, Chinese Communism may be bankrupt, but faith in yourself is a very thin reed. The director understands that people are deeply flawed, but does not recognize in this movie at least that the answer is not themselves, but the salvation which is freely available in Jesus Christ.
HAPPY TIMES, a subtitled Chinese movie by famous director Zhang Yimou, opens with an over-50 bachelor Zhao talking at lunch with an unattractive, overweight, middle-aged Chinese woman. Zhao insists on getting married, despite the woman’s protestations. He later finds out, however, that the woman has a fat obnoxious son and a step-daughter, Wu, who is blind and whom she treats like Cinderella. Zhao takes pity on Wu and tries to help her. He has to resort to trickery, however, although both he and the young girl discover an empathy between them that provides a haven for their loneliness.
HAPPY TIMES are not. Zhao’s compassion ends in disaster. The very weak message is, “Believe in yourself.” Zhao is confronted for his lying, but he persists, not because he is trying to harm people but because he’s trying to help people. This subtle exposé of the Chinese Communist society is limited by its lackluster portrait of hope. The final answer is “Have faith in yourself.” This humanist premise is coupled with a Rousseauian Romantic worldview, in the theological or philosophical sense. HAPPY TIMES also contains some foul language, suggestive sexual comments and violence.