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Chinese Rom-Com Finding Mr. Right Wants So Badly to be an American Rom-Com

Xue Xiaolu’s Chinese romantic comedy Finding Mr. Right wants to be an American romantic comedy so badly!

It begins with the Supremes’ “Someday We’ll Be Together,” ends with Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” and sets a montage to Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” along the way, all without a hint of irony. None of this is a spoiler; remember that the title is Finding Mr. Right, which manages to be both generic and misleading.

The Finder in question is Wen (Tang Wei), a ditzy, rich Chinese woman sent by her sugar daddy to Seattle (portrayed by Vancouver) to give birth, thus circumventing China’s one-child policy.

She’s not seeking Mr. Right at first, but could it be Frank (Wu Xiubo), the scruffy driver who picks her up at the airport? And as Wen learns what’s most important in life — and we’re frequently reminded that it is not money — will she experience hilarious culture clash, including but not limited to tattooed punks straight out of Central Casting?

Finding Mr. Right would be banal if it were indeed an American film, but since it’s in Chinese and has a mild political edge regarding overseas birthing, it’s not without interest, and is a pleasant enough way to spend two hours if you’re not looking to be surprised.

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Clock Ticking, Love Blooms in Late Autumn

There’s not a more gorgeous couple gracing movie screens at the moment than Late Autumn’s Tang Wei and Bin Hyun (she from Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, he one of South Korea’s biggest stars). It’s pulchritude overload. The two play Anna and Hoon, lovers racing against the clock in a three-day affair. Anna moves in a kind of daze, still somewhat in the state of shock she fell in to seven years earlier after killing her husband in self-defense and being sent to prison. Given a 72-hour compassionate release to attend the funeral of her mother, she meets Hoon on the bus ride home. He’s a gigolo whose smooth but amped energy is partly from being a reflexive salesman of himself, and partly due to his being on the run from the furious husband of a client. As Anna absorbs how much things have changed in her absence (within her family; in the world at large), she reluctantly succumbs to Hoon’s charms. The two begin a low-key but emotionally intense relationship whose intensity rests on the built-in tragedy of how little time they have. In remaking the 1966 South Korean film Full Autumn and setting it in America, writer-director Kim Tae-Yong uses the melancholic, gray backdrop of Seattle as both character and metaphor, crafting a film that’s visually beautiful and incredibly moving.

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The Spy Who Shagged Yee

Based on a 54-page short story that Eileen Chang started writing in the 1950s and finished in the ’70s, Ang Lee’s latest foray into forbidden love is as monotonous and disaffecting as Brokeback Mountain was gripping and immediate. It will be best known as the film for which Lee received the NC-17 rating, but its sex scenes are no more provocative or enlightening than those on HBO’s Tell Me You Love Me. (In both cases, it’s amazing how something so cold is expected to generate so much heat.)

Set in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during the early to mid-1940s, Lust, Caution is a beautifully shot and painfully prolonged soap opera in which a Chinese actress with a patriotic theater troupe (Wang Chia-chih, played by Tang Wei) is enlisted to kill the head of the secret police (Mr. Yee, played by Tony Leung), who is collaborating with the Japanese. Several years after the plot initially goes awry—the wrong people were killed— Wang once more ingratiates herself into the Yee household, where she begins a torrid, often violent affair with Mr. Yee, for whom there’s a fine line between romance and rape.

What Chang wrote about eloquently and succinctly—how easily the most noble intentions can be corrupted by love, or at least the promise and smell of it—Lee and his writers lose in translation. They’re so enamored of the details—a mahjong game that lasts forever, during which things are suggested and hinted at and drooled over—that they often lose sight of their leads, whose relationship is all but buried till 105 minutes into a movie better boiled down to half its running time.