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Hoping for a towering success

By Xu Fan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-11-20 08:07

Scenes from the film The Shadowless Tower, featuring Xin Baiqing (right) as a food critic and Huang Yao portraying a photographer in a cafe near the White Pagoda in Xicheng district in Beijing. CHINA DAILY

Award-winning director's latest offering taps into a sense of nostalgia for the Beijing of his youth, Xu Fan reports.

At a cafe in a downtown Beijing hotel, the afternoon sunlight pours through a giant glass window, casting a warm glow upon the table. Director Zhang Lu slowly recalls how he took a mere 14 days to write the script of The Shadowless Tower — the biggest winner at the 13th Beijing International Film Festival earlier this year.

The movie, like the 61-year-old scriptwriter-filmmaker, who has a deep emotional connection with the Chinese capital due to three decades spent living in the city, depicts a serene and composed Beijing in a gentle and soothing narrative.

Shot in areas surrounding the White Pagoda, a signature structure in a temple constructed during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) situated in Xicheng district of Beijing, the movie revolves around Gu Wentong, a middle-aged Beijing native and poet-turned food critic.

As a divorced father whose elder sister and her husband take care of his young daughter, Gu engages in his routine review writing while struggling to maintain a tentative romance with a 25-year-old photographer, Ouyang Wenhui. The free-spirited woman seemingly has an ambiguous interest toward him, but she still can't let go of her first love, who cheated on her and has moved to Paris.

Meanwhile, the protagonist encounters fresh problems — his father, who was kicked out by his mother over an indelicate moment on a bus when Gu was young — is discovered to be living alone in Beidaihe, a coastal district in Qinhuangdao in Hebei province. Every year, when Gu and his sister celebrate their birthdays, the guilty father rides a decrepit bike nearly 300 kilometers just to secretly watch them from afar.

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