Delayed Chinese film 'Lost' set for release


HONG KONG -- A Chinese movie sharply critical of deteriorating morals amid the country's rapid economic growth will finally hit theaters this week after being heavily censored and delayed for a key Communist Party meeting, its producer said Tuesday.

Director Li Yu's "Lost in Beijing," which describes the fallout after a Beijing foot massage parlor owner rapes an employee from the countryside, will be released on Friday and is expected to show at about 500 movie theaters, producer Fang Li told the Associated Press in a phone interview.

The 10 million Chinese yuan ($1.4 million) movie was heavily edited before clearing Chinese censors, known for their aversion to sex, violence and dissent, earlier this year. Its release date was then postponed several times -- from May to August, then to November.

Officials had asked the movie's distributor to wait until after the Communist Party Congress, which took place last month. Beijing is sensitive about highlighting social tensions arising from a yawning rich-poor gap.

Chinese audiences won't feel the full brunt of director Li's social criticism, however.

In its uncensored form, "Lost in Beijing" is a damning indictment of greed and lust in modern Chinese society.

The massage parlor owner, played by Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Ka-fai from "The Lover," rapes his employee while she's drunk in full view of her husband, a window cleaner.

But instead of seeking legal recourse, the woman's husband persuades his wife to pass off their child -- born about nine months after the rape -- as the owner's to extort payment from him.

The employee ends up living with the owner and his wife to take care of the baby.

Meanwhile, the husband and the owner's wife have an affair to get back at their spouses.

That affair, and other explicit sex scenes, was cut from the movie, Fang said Tuesday. He also cut out a side character -- a fired foot masseuse who becomes a prostitute -- as well as scenes showing dirty streets, gambling, the Chinese national flag, and Beijing's Tiananmen Square -- the site of pro-democracy protests that prompted a bloody military crackdown in 1989.

While acknowledging the censored film lost some of its intensity, Fang said the main story was kept intact -- including using the baby as a pawn -- and he considered it a breakthrough that reflected greater open-mindedness.

"It's quite an accomplishment that a story like this passed censorship," Fang said, adding, "there's no way this movie would have been shown two years ago."

The uncensored version was recently released in Hong Kong, a Chinese-ruled territory that has a separate political system.

Fang said the film has also been sold to distributors in North America, Europe, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea.