Review of Dreams May Come (China; 梦想照进现实, 2006), A Kaila Productions Co. Ltd. and Cinerent Beijing Ltd. production.
Director: Xu Jinglei
Producers: Xu Zijian, Liu Xuan
Screenwriter: Wang Shuo
Editor: Zhang Jia
Music: Mars Radio
Cinematographer: Wu Liang
Art Director: Zhang Wu
Sound: Chen Chen
Cast: Han Tongsheng, Xu Jinglei
Running time: 105 MIN.
Release in China: 2006.
Available at: http://us.yesasia.com
Shaoyi’s Rating: F (Failed)
Actress-turned-director Xu Jinglei’s (My Daddy and I, Letter from an Unknown Woman) third feature Dreams May Come fails on every level as a film: producing, directing, writing, and acting. With endless talks between the two characters and nothing really happening, one has to wonder why Xu made her mind to direct such a poorly conceived film in the first place, which would make her a fool if she was in Hollywood, and how such a film, utterly narcissistic and self-important, got made in an increasingly audience-oriented film market of China.
“A man, a woman, a room, plus a whole night’s endless talk”: this is the “selling point” printed on the film’s DVD cover. If this can be called “promotion”, then the whole curriculum of Harvard’s business school would have to be re-designed. Although not a smart marketing slogan, it is actually an exact description of what the film is all about. Filmed entirely in a messy room that leaves little space for the characters to maneuver, Dreams May Come tells the “story” of a TV director’s efforts in persuading his female lead, tired of acting like a mindless doll, not to ruin his TV drama by quitting. The director (Han Tongsheng) first tries to sweet-talk the actress (Xu Jinglei) into acknowledging the value of the work, then pretends to give up the whole work by further depreciating the script himself. In the end, the actress seems to have gained an upper hand. As the day dawns, the two temporarily forget their roles as the director and actress, and start to talk about the dreams they’ve cherished, although still in a sarcastic tone.
Scripted by once famed novelist Wang Shuo, Dreams May Come is another proof that Wang is becoming increasingly irrelevant to today’s Chinese society, despite he might be in utter denial of the fact. Wang emerged as a cult figure in Chinese literary and film scenes in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the creation of a series of “hooligan-like” young rebels who dare to say no to Communist ideology and the official versions of Chinese history. His Beijing-based witty dialogues and politically charged sarcasm had a huge fan base, particularly on college campuses. But time has changed. Today’s young generation is nurtured after naked commercialism, and their idols are “super girls” in their twenties and teen writers like Han Han and Guo Jingming. Wang Shuo became famous because of the specific times, and he becomes passé also due to the change of times. It is no wonder he lends his voice to the director in the film, lamenting the impossibility of the dreams of his generation, and uttering the lines like “the future is ugly”.
It is understandable that Wang Shuo might want to use this film to make a statement, a statement that few in today’s China would care to listen to, but it is almost beyond this reviewer’s comprehension that Xu Jinglei, with a promising directing career ahead of her, thought such a script could work. If she was working in Hollywood, her name would be permanently tarnished because of this film. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be even possible for her to get another chance to sit on the director’s chair.