Liu Zhi, a young man, depressed and trapped in a loveless marriage with a dominating girl, meets Baober (an ageless young girl) on a Beijing street one day. They fall in love and start to live a strange, mysterious life....
Li Shaohong’s sensational Baober in Love will turn your ideas of Chinese cinema upside down.
There’s never been a film from China like this: a free-wheeling, fantastical display of visual and narrative playful experimentation. A bit of Amélie, a bit of Disney magic, with strong doses of French amour fou and Japanese horror, Baober is finally an utterly original blend of pop art elements that reaches deep into the mysteries and fears that lie behind our swiftly spinning modern lives. Ageless pixie-waif Baober (Zhou Xun) finds a videotape made by rich young married Liu Zhi (Huang Jie), in which he confesses his innermost anxieties. She promptly falls in love and tracks him down in Beijing, just as his marriage is breaking apart. Her troubled childhood erupts into her and Liu’s present lives in the form of dreamlike fantasy sequences that materialize, like magic, in front of Li’s camera. As Liu is sucked into Baober’s dreamworld, make love, nest in a spectacularly transformed abandoned factory, and discover that Baober’s past traumas are perhaps more than true love can comfort.
This film offers a catalogue of Chinese film industry “firsts”: including an extended (though discreetly shot) nude scene, but it’s the technical and imaginative virtuosity of Li Shaohong’s direction that commands attention. She uses an impressive (and expensive) gallery of state-of-the-art CGI effects to get us inside the (disturbed, childlike, naive, but strangely beautiful) mind of her protagonist. Best known in the West for Blush, her masterful tale of post-Revolution reformed prostitutes, Li moves the goalposts for contemporary Chinese cinema with this special effects tour de force, which was released in China on Valentine’s Day 2004. Though the film’s middle section abstains from the sensory overload of the first half, a shocking finale shows us how much is really at stake in this fable of contemporary anxiety.