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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Shower (review)

Its title sounds suspiciously like that of a porno film, but Shower is actually a Chinese drama that swept through recent film festivals worldwide to great acclaim. Thematically similar in some ways to last winter’s Danish film Mifune, this is a bittersweet exploration of the inexorable slide from past to future traditional cultures face as the entire world becomes Westernized. Da Ming (Pu Cun Xin) comes running home, from his high-powered job in the modern city of Shenzhen to a depressed section of Beijing, when a mysterious postcard from his brother, Er Ming (Jiang Wu), suggests that their father, Master Liu (Zhu Xu), has died. Master Liu is fine — chipper and cheerful Er Ming, who is retarded, didn’t mean to scare his brother — but Da Ming decides to stay for a few days and help run his father’s bathhouse. The pleasant, sociable atmosphere draws old men who pass the day with tea drinking, massages, cricket fights, and naps, and young men who need such a warm and welcoming community to come out of their shells. The bathhouse is a refuge: from wives, from debtors, from the reality that this remnant of the past is slipping away. But when the bathhouse is threatened with destruction — to make way for a shopping mall, natch — Da Ming, who has long disdained traditional bathing for quick, solitary showers, finds himself fighting to keep the old ways from disappearing forever. This is a bewitching film, one that will make you suspect too many wonderful things have been lost in the name of “progress.”

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for language and nudity

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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