Directed by Lou Ye
Official Selection, 2014 Berlin International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival
“Beauty is a disaster.” It’s a strange statement to hear in a movie about the blind. But BLIND MASSAGE is also about the torrid intersections of love, sex, and aspiration. In a massage parlor run by the sight-impaired, old friends meet, new encounters are made, and lust becomes opportunity. It would be the thing of soap opera if it weren’t directed by Lou Ye, a master of realism overrun by the pangs of romanticism.
Lou directs his ensemble of blind and sighted actors with a sensitivity to the paradox of blindness in a medium dominated by the image. He probes the ethics of looking by reconsidering our field of vision. Characters are kept in close-up. There are no establishing shots; after all, what can ultimately be established by the visual? Lou also arouses the other senses: the taste of an orange, the clacking of a wind-up toy, the smell of coital sweat. But above all, there is touch, from a knife slash to the skin, to the warm embrace of a lover.
Unlike so many films about disability, BLIND MASSAGE never asks for pity. It invites only the empathy than can be afforded through picture and sound. And by focusing on the utopia that is the parlor, the film looks at what is created through disability and not just what is lost. Here, there’s itchy friskiness and liberating public displays of affection in a community where those three words have very different implications. Beauty may be a disaster, but it’s an invigorating one that the characters court with us in the darkness. After all, Lou Ye’s film is ultimately about what none of us can see: love, fate, the future. –Brian Hu
Suzhou River (2000)
Summer Palace (2006)
Spring Fever (2009)
Cast: Qin Hao, Guo Xiaoting, Mei Ting, Huang Xuan