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HAPPY TIMES

China, 2000 (MIFF 2002, Regional Focus)

Director: Zhang Yimou

Acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou - a 'Fifth Generation' master of Chinese cinema whose films include Raise the Red Lantern and Red Sorghum - has delivered a gentle comedy of manners and morals.

The lead protagonist, middle-aged Zhao, is onto his eighteenth attempt to find a dating agency wife. His latest conquest mistakenly believes he is wealthy, and Zhao sets out to make his fortune. With the aid of best friend and sidekick Li, the two men spruce up an abandoned bus, transforming it into a hotel for courting couples. Zhao's prospective bride talks him into giving a job to her blind stepdaughter, and after a mock interview - with Li in the guise of the hotel manger's assistant - the girl 'gets the job'. Only one catch: the authorities have taken away Zhao's 'Happy Time Hotel'.

A well-paced plot and snappy performances make for a positively irresistible 'now get out of that one' comedy. Filled with heart and warmth, this Berlin and Pusan Film Festival charmer touches on the way private fictions can take on their own emotional truth.

Zhang Yimou (born in Xian, China, 1951) made his directorial debut in 1988 with Red Sorghum, which won the Golden Bear for Best Picture at the Berlin Film Festival. Other films include Raise the Red Lantern (1991), Shanghai Triad (1995), Not One Less (1998) and The Road Home (2000).

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