Wealthy entrepreneur Handong runs a trading company in Beijing. His loyal lieutenant one night introduces him to Lan Yu, a penniless architecture student. Handong enjoys bedding the boy, but doesn’t think of an on-going relationship.
Beijing, 1988. On the cusp of middle-age, Chen Handong has known little but success all his life. The eldest son of a senior government bureaucrat, he heads a fast-growing trading company and plays as hard as he works. Few know that Handong’s tastes run more to boys than girls.
Lan Yu is a country boy, newly arrived in Beijing to study architecture. More than most students, he is short of money and willing to try anything to earn some. He has run into Liu Zheng, who pragmatically suggests that he could prostitute himself for one night to a gay pool-hall and bar owner. But Handong happens to be in the pool hall that evening, and he nixes the deal. He takes Lan Yu home himself and gives the young man what turns out to be a life-changing sexual initiation.
Handong and Lan Yu meet often, and the boy is soon very secure in his love for the man. But Handong insists that he wants a play-mate, not a lifelong companion, and warns Lan Yu that they will eventually break up.
Meanwhile, he showers expensive gifts on Lan Yu, expecting to deflect the boy’s love by turning it into gratitude or dependency. Lan Yu is undeterred, until the night he catches Handong with another boy. They meet again on the night of June 4th, 1989. Handong goes looking for Lan Yu, worried that he might have been caught up in the army’s murderous sweep through Tiannmen Square. Handong gives Lan Yu his most lavish gifts yet – a newly built villa on the outskirts of Beijing and a car – and they begin living together as a couple. But again, Handong shies away from his feelings for the boy. He enters a whirlwind romance with Jingping, a professional translator who has helped his company in trade negotiations with Russians, and marries her.
Lan Yu moves out of the village and Handong loses contact with him. Before long, Handong is divorced. He runs into Lan Yu by chance at the airport one day, and an invitation to try Lan Yu’s home cooking leads to a resumption of their relationship. Now, at last, Handong is learns to feel and show commitment to his lover – just when his company comes under investigation for smuggling and illegal fund-raising. Handong is facing long-term imprisonment, possibly worse, but to the delight of his sister Yonghong and her husband Daning, he is bailed out by Lan Yu. The boy sells the villa and the car and pools the proceeds with his own savings – yielding enough to get Handong out of trouble.
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Original Title: Lan Yu
Country: Hong Kong
Director: Stanley Kwan
Stars: Ye Liu, Jun Hu, Bin Li
Run time: 86 min