Happy times (Xingfu shiguang)
Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities
Happy times is a small but broad Chinese language comedy about human nature when it comes to love and the pursuit of happiness.
Middle-aged Ding Shikou (Benshan Zhao) visits a matchmaker to find a wife. Finally, she sends him the perfect one. Desperate to impress her, ding promises her a far more extravagant wedding than he can afford, leading her to believe he is rich. Then desperate, to make money, Ding refurbishes an abandoned railway car on Lover's Lane and charges admission for young couples wandering by.
Desperate to impress his future bride Ding agrees to give her blind stepdaughter a job at his hotel. Creating a tangled and hilarious mess of lies in order to employ her, Ding must create a fake hotel environment in an abandoned factory so she believes she has a legitimate job. Finally, he must tell her the truth and come clean to his fiancée, which turns out to be both a heartbreaking and hilarious life lesson for all involved.
Persons of interest
- Jie Dong
- Lifan Dong
- Benshan Zhao
- Yimou Zhang .... Director
Cinematic intelligence sources
- Awards and film festivals:
- Berlin International Film Festival 2002: out of competition selection
- Sydney Asia Pacific Film Festival 2002: opening night film
- Cinematic Intelligence Agency Trenchcoat Awards 2003
- Happy times (Xingfu Shiguang) official movie site
- Happy times (Xingfu Shiguang) QuickTime movie trailers
- cf. Atanarjuat (The fast runner)
- NB: Mandarin language dialogue with English language subtitles
- Studios and distributors:
Special Agent Matti
Like The joy luck club, Happy times is as much a wish as it is a statement, though this should not be much of a surprise in a country where poverty and suffering are the lot of most of the citizenry (and have been for many thousands of years). Films like The road home and Not one less can show you more about this.
Happy times is a romantic comedy that is too honest to avoid the dramas of everyday life. People are greedy, malicious, helpful, scared, caring. They live their lives according to their own desires, not those of the filmmaker or the script. And then, there's the big old world: round and round and round it goes, where it stops, no-one knows. That's the best part of Happy times: at no point can you ever guess what is going to happen next; at no point is there a simple yes/no answer.
It is such a change from Hollywood.
All the actors are characters in a story, there is no sense of ego, no thought that there's a mineral water waiting in the trailer at the end of the scene. Like so many films with unknown actors, there's just action and emotion recorded by a passing camera. Like life, no-one is perfect, no-one is only what you see. Think about My best friend's wedding, it's a hilarious, better than average Hollywood romantic comedy with a moral twist at the end (she stops trying to steal the hero from his Aryan true love). At the same time, every character has one purpose and one purpose only, clearly written across their forehead: Hero, Heroine, True Love, Comedy Sidekick. In Happy times, the purpose for each character changes from scene to scene: new events create new expectations, new emotions, new actions. There are no signposts, unless you can fit "The guy who is at the centre of the current events and is looking for a wife but ends up with a daughter until she has to go back to her stepmother so his search for happiness remains unfulfilled by the time the film ends" across someone's forehead.
See Happy times and be reminded what filmmaking is all about.
Media intelligence (DVD)
- Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
- Languages: Mandarin
- Picture: Widescreen 1.85:1/16:9
- Subtitles: English captions
Security censorship classification
PG (Adult themes, low level coarse language)
93 minutes (1:33 hours)