Men and Women
Release year: 1999
Run time: 89 minutes
Film type: Fiction
This is the first independent LGBTQ film to come out of People's Republic of China. In the winter of 1999, Xiao Bo, a shy young man, arrives in Beijing to look for work. He is employed by an unhappily married woman, Qing Jie, who is full of maternal instincts. Qing Jie lets him sleep in her house and tries to introduce him to her girlfriend. Soon it becomes apparent that Xiao Bo is not interested in girls. Qing Jie's husband tries to rape him one day when they are alone in the house, prompting Xiao Bo to leave and seek shelter with Chong Chong, the editor of an underground magazine devoted to graffiti collected from public toilets known to be gay cruising areas. Chong Chong is living with another man, who is jealous of the new arrival. A tender love develops between Xiao Bo and Chong Chong, in effect a “coming out” for Xiao Bo. In the meantime, Qing Jie has made up her mind to leave her husband and live with her girlfriend, with whom she has been having an affair. This film was shot with non-professional actors, except for the lead actor, Qing Jie, who had previously appeared in some television films. The tempo is adjusted to that of everyday life where nothing much seems to happen on the outside. People go to work, come home exhausted, and dream of vacations. The presence of western habits—consuming Coca-Cola and McDonald’s—is very much in evidence in this film, which tries to take a documentary approach to its subject. Most of the narrative is improvisational. Liu Bingjian considered several titles for his film, favouring something that would resemble “Toilet Literature”. The present title, Men and Women, was chosen to make the film sound less controversial, in the event that it one day could be released in China.
Training first as a painter, Liu Bingjian then studied cinematography at the Beijing Film Academy. After graduation he worked in television before making his first film as a director—Inkstone—which screened neither in China nor overseas.
In 1999 he made the independent LGBTQ film Men and Women, a rare example for the time of a film that treated homosexuality as an everyday condition.
In 2002, Liu made Cry Woman. Then he made the officially approved Plastic Flowers (2004), which starred actress Liu Xiaoqing in her first role in over a decade. The film premiered at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival.