Blind Massage (Tui Na) is a recently released movie, directed by Lou Ye, co-produced with France. It was contended for Golden Bear at Berlin Film festival and won a few awards in Taiwan.
I went an afternoon show with my German friend Elke who practices Chinese medicine in Berlin. I love going to cinema during the day when everyone else is working – you have such guilty pleasure.
Based on the novel by Bi Feiyu, it is about a group of blind employees at a massage parlour in Nanjing ( my hometown) and their work and love life. I found the setting very intriguing: most of us ‘ordinary people’ have very little insight into a blind person’s life. I myself only know one person – Chen Guangcheng, the blind lawyer and rights activists. Again he is not a typical blind person.
The movie is packed with interesting characters. There is Little Ma who lost his eyesight and his mother in a childhood accident. At the poular he has a big crash on the girlfriend of a colleague. To stop him to ‘explode’, his friend introduces him to a massage paulour (brothel) where he falls in love with a working girl.
There’s jolly boss Sha Fumin who is into dancing, poetry and other his spiritual pursues. He falls in love with the most beautiful girl in the parlour named Du Hong. But Du is in love with Little Ma.
There’s the handsome guy Dr. Wang, who nearly bleeds himself to death in order paying back his brother’s debts.
A young girl Jin Yan is going blind slowly but surely. Before the darkness falls, she desperately tries to secure love and grab a man with open eyes.
The movie raises some interesting questions: what is beauty when you can’t see? Boss Sha becomes obsessed with beautiful Du Hong because clients always make such comments. Du rejects him because she doesn’t think his obsession with her is love.
I also like the part when Du Hong leaves the parlour in the end. I thought she is going for Boss Sha after he raises money to pay for her operation when she hurts her hand. The level-headed girl knows that gratitude and love are different things. it doesn’t always lead to love.
The problem with the movie is that the cast is too big. So it doesn’t have the time or space to explore the characters with depth therefore explaining to the audience their motivation a little better. For example, I don’t understand why Dr. Wang would cut himself on the chest. To earn his dignity as claimed? It’s not his debt. Jin Yan wins the heart of the man too easily. The film doesn’t have time to show her desperation: how she reads every romantic book available as described in the book.
Quite a few scenes are melodramatic, such as Dr. Wang’s self-injury, Jin Yan’s wailing after she is first rejected by her love interest; (her stuffing orange into her mouth is a more effective way to show her frustration) and Boss Sha’s spitting blood.
And all the characters are good-hearted people, which make them lack of dimensions.
In the end, it is a good movie, especially by Chinese standard. It certainly moved me (which is not too difficult). At first I tried not to cry. When I heard Elke sniffing, I allowed my tears to flow. I also found part of dialogue, in Nanjing dialect, endearing.