Film review: New York New York – Ethan Ruan and Du Juan as Chinese lovers doomed by American dream

Tale of conflicting dreams of incompatible partners in early 90s Shanghai is artfully presented with refined cinematography, if a little melancholy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 June, 2016, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 June, 2016, 4:25pm

3/5 stars

New York New York may be an artfully presented film about two lovers who can’t stop torturing themselves with their self-serving tendency and inexplicable aloofness, but audiences who prefer their romantic leads likeable and expressive should look elsewhere. Set predominantly in early ’90s Shanghai, where young people dream of making a better life in America, this nostalgic drama from director Luo Dong charts the on-again-off-again romance between an incompatible pair who are often unnecessarily cruel to each other.

Lu Tu (Ethan Ruan Ching-tien) is a luxury hotel bell captain who refuses to join the gold rush. Meanwhile, Juan (Du Juan) appears to spend all her days struggling with the moral crisis induced by her mother’s gold-digging prep talk. A temporary solution is reached when he gets her a job in a tough woman’s (Cecilia Yip Tung) entertainment business. But when a Chinese American entrepreneur, Mr Mi (Michael Miu Kiu-wai), offers Lu Tu a career in New York, the lovers’ conflicting dreams leave their future in doubt.

Characters are alternately left to look lost, confused or emotionally stunted by the social sentiments of the period, which sets off Juan’s overriding desire to leave China. The beautiful actors, elliptical narrative, refined cinematography and inconsequential bits of dialogue may all conspire to evoke Wong Kar-wai’s stylish tales of heartbreak – if he was ever tempted to address people’s mercenary nature amid China’s materialistic spree. New York New York finds only melancholy in its characters’ infatuation with the West.

New York New York opens on June 9

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