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Happy Times (Sous-titres français)

Lifan Dong , Benshan Zhao , Yimou Zhang    Unrated   DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect July 16 2004
By Howie
I've long been a film buff - my favorite films tend to be artsy and rather pedantic. Because of this, my family generally doesn't like to sit with me and watch movies.
So, when I started "Happy Times" last night, I thought they'd gradually wander off and find something else to do.
But, they were enthralled! This movie is the perfect balancing act between comedy, drama, and the enduring love we feel for those who have touched us in a special way.
This is a great, great movie.
Too many Americans shun foreign films. This is one they shouldn't miss. When the movie ended, my oldest son turned to me and said, "Wow. I think Hollywood has forgotten how to make movies like this!"
American filmmakers seem to think they have to descend to the baser instincts in order to make "adult" movies.
Yet, "Happy Times" - and countless other foreign films - never seem to sink to this level. These films are always excellent.
I think the issue is that Hollywood has forgotten how to write a good story; they've forgotten that basic human values can be enduring, can be entertaining, if only they would jettison their cynical baggage.
"Happy Times" will make you laugh and cry, smile and reflect with pride on the better angels of our nature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars [Anything but] Happy Times March 31 2003
Despite the upbeat title, 'Happy Times' depicts anything but...abuse by a stepmother, abandonment by a natural father, massive structural unemployment, a future of limited hope for each of the protagonists.
Through all of this despair, the natural goodness of Benshan Zhao's character (also called "Zhao") shines through. His ruses get more complicated and difficult to sort out, but in the second-half of the film, his growing care and concern for "Little Wu" (skillfully portrayed by Dong Jie) is obvious.
I defy anyone to watch 'Happy Times' without tears streaming down your cheeks by the end. I definitely recommend a rental/purchase, but you may want to pair it with something a bit more upbeat or comedic. This is a heartbreaking movie.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Happy viewing, at least. Sept. 20 2003
By A Customer
Zhang Yimou's ironically titled *Happy Times* is really a remarkable tightrope act: it offers us some very sappy melodrama while commenting on its own artifices, and gets away with it like a charming thief. Get a load of this plot. . . . A fat divorcee with two teenagers -- her own boy and a blind, unwanted step-daughter left behind by her ex-husband -- gets involved with an unemployed proletarian named Zhao. Zhao, depressed, broke, and lonely, claims he's a big-shot hotelier in order to impress the divorcee, who turns out to be very hard to impress. Hence, Zhao's lies -- as one might expect -- become more grandiose and difficult to sustain, especially after the divorcee dumps the unwanted blind girl onto his doorstep. "I'm sure you can find SOME work for her at your fancy hotel!" the woman declares. Zhao hits upon the idea of hiring the girl as a masseuse for the imaginary hotel's wealthy guests. But how is he going to pull THIS off? Desperately, he lets the girl stay in his shabby apartment, which he claims is a "worker's apartment" -- his OWN place, of course, is some unspecified mansion elsewhere. Of course, by now he's forced to get his fellow-unemployed friends in on the act: they pose as the wealthy guests and receive massages from the girl in a decrepit factory that they have hastily dressed up as a massage parlor at the "hotel". Once these jobless pensioners run out of real disposable income, they tip her with rectangular cuttings from brown paper bags instead of money. This all sounds very cruel, I know, but just watch the movie: Zhao and his friends come to feel a deep fondness for the poor wretch, who -- you guessed it -- just wants to find her father somewhere in Beijing so that he can pay for a procedure to cure her blindness. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful but underappreciated film. Aug. 6 2003
By yinan
As a longtime fan of director Zhang Yimou, I was surprised to see him change directions with 1998's Not One Less. After watching his four most recent films (Not One Less, The Road Home, Happy Times and Hero), I can say with assurance that Zhang Yimou is not changing directions but branching out. He can direct almost anything. I've always appreciated movies that had both comedy and drama and defied categorization. Too bad Blockbuster can easy categorize this film under "Foreign." Happy Times starts off lighthearted and easily amusing, but becomes more complicated as it progresses. I can compare this movie to a more well-known and more controversial one, Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful. Happy Times is not striking like Zhang Yimou's earlier films, but it is more heartfelt. It's less artsy so it can be enjoyed by almost anyone. Note: The Chinese and American versions of this film have different endings. I can't advise you on which one to see since they are practically equal in degree of happiness or sadness. I would say the difference between them is like the difference between the two separate endings of Dickens' Great Expectations.
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Zhang Yimou is always at his best when he is portraying ordinary people facing overwhelming circumstances. Although not an epic film, this movie joins the ranks of "To Live" and "The Story of Qiu Jiu" as yet another supreme example of that genre.
The story surrounds the efforts of a man in his fifties (Zhao) who is desperately trying to get a woman to marry him. The woman, when we meet her, is obviously a caricature-morbidly obese, with an enormous slob of a son. In this pathetic environment, the door opens on a frail, pretty young lady, who obviously doesn't fit the picture, and who, though blind, "sees" better than anyone else what is really important. I was struck by the pathos of her blindness, as she plays it magnificently. But I was even more fascinated with the "blindness" of Zhao, who can't see the forest for the giant Sequoia.
You know what? Forget reviews-you just need to see this movie. From the pathetic opening, to the elaborate ruse of a fake massage parlor that forms the bulk of the story, to the "relationship" that each of Zhao's retired friends forms with this young lady, to her noble response to the deception, which she discovers far before any of them suspect, to the incredible ending... Talking to a playing tape recorder...I never would have thought of it; it's really one of the most unusual endings I have seen.
When it comes right down to it, the whole movie is a caricature, because the storyline is so outlandish that you can never quite believe that something like that would actually happen. Throughout the movie, my most consuming thought was, "How in the sam hill is he going to end this thing?!" Zhang Yimou did not disappoint me.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Do not let the picture on the box fool you - this is an excellent...
I just happened to see this on CBC, and bought the DVD last week. It is worth seeing for the performance of Dong Jie alone -- what a wonderful performance. Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2008 by Glenn Laycock
5.0 out of 5 stars IT IS MY FAVOR
Published on Feb. 18 2004 by IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet little movie
This movie tops my all time list of Asian films. It covers the whole range of emotions - at times, it is absolutely hilarious, then absurd, and then very touching. Read more
Published on July 17 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Desperately seeking love...
A middle aged bachelor, Zhao is desperately seeking love and thinks he has found it in a woman who wants a large wedding. Read more
Published on July 15 2003 by Kim Anehall
4.0 out of 5 stars happy times
This is an excellent movie, but "the long way home" is similar and better.
Published on June 5 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Zhang Yimou does it again...
I was so happy when I was in Blockbuster last evening and admist all the Hollywood mass-produced "big A-list star" [movies] I was able to find Zhang Yimou's recent import. Read more
Published on March 8 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart rending
My university's east asian cultures department is showing an east asian movie every friday for a month and this was the first one shown. Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2003 by Daitokuji31
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple Story about a Girl and a Middle-aged Man in China
Very common error among Western viewers about "Happy Times" is the idea that this film is a comedy, or "basically comedy. Read more
Published on Jan. 12 2003 by Tsuyoshi
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