Film Review: Fleeing by Night
A delicate love triangle develops when American-educated cellist Hsu Shaodung returns to Beijing to wed his longtime pen-pal Wei Ing'Er in an arranged marriage. His bride-to-be lives with her parents, who own the Heavenly Cloud Theater, where an opera troupe has taken up lodgings for the duration of their performance of "Lin Chung Flees by Night." The star of the opera is a handsome and talented young man who was abandoned as an infant and raised with the opera troupe. So stirring is his performance in the title role of Lin Chung that he has become synonymous with the character he plays.
With the opera troupe in such close proximity, Ing'Er becomes enamored with the charismatic Lin Chung. But infatuation turns to humiliation when she discovers that he has engaged in a clandestine affair with Shaodung, her betrothed. To further complicate matters, Huang Zilei, a sinister underworld figure, has taken Lin Chung as a sexual protégé in exchange for his theatrical patronage. With the oblique implications of his affaires du coeur and the onset of the Japanese occupation of Beijing, Lin Chung soon finds life imitating art, leaving two wounded souls in its wake.
Directed by Li-Kong Hsu, Fleeing by Night is a subtly seductive psychodrama that juxtaposes the implied innocence and purity of nuptial love with the cloaked and forbidden realm of homosexuality and pedophilia. Performances by Rene Liu as Wei Ing'Er, Lei Huang as Hsu Shaodong, and Chao-te Yin as Lin Chung in the sepia-toned world of 1930s Beijing create a gestalt that is at once both heart-rending and bittersweet.