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'Pleasure. Love.' (Photo: YounianLiu)

In the more than 100 films that screen at Sundance each year, it’s easy for the more contemplative pieces to get lost among the louder, showier entries. I’m so glad I stumbled upon Pleasure. Love., a Beijing-set romantic riddle directed by Yao Huang. This is a fascinating film that will reward repeat viewings, as patient moviegoers will want to peel back its onion layers.

The movie is broken into two parts, one titled Pleasure and the other titled Love. Both are romances that begin with chance encounters at a dance club. In Part One, a bookish young man falls for the older woman next door, while in Part Two, a young woman explores her burgeoning sexuality with a handsome bespectacled older man. The two stories have more in common than just the set-ups; they are revealed to be linked.

Be warned that the movie takes its time to unfold, but I was swept up in the erotic interplay of the beautifully filmed actors. (It’s no surprise that Yao Huang worked closely with the Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan.) Yes, there is conflict (and tragedy) in each story, but that’s not where Pleasure. Love. finds its dynamism. The engine of this film lies in the open-faced sensitivity of stars Ying Daizhen, Yu Nan, Guo Xiadong, and Sun Yi, who all commit totally to their characters’ emotional journeys. A gem of a film that deserves a life far beyond its Sundance premiere. (In Mandarin with English subtitles.)

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By Kevin Wicks
Kevin Wicks is the founding editor of Anglophenia.