So what do you do once the Chinese authorities forbid you from making movies for five years? If you’re Lou Ye—whose 2006 drama, Summer Palace, earned him a cease-and-desist order—you ignore the government, secretly shoot a film about homosexuality (another no-no) and take it to Cannes. In your face, repressive powers that be! Timidity has never been one of the director’s characteristics, and the film’s forthright treatment of sex—gritty, grunty and beneficial if performed while showering—is one of its few graces. Though not a saving one: After a woman hires a detective (Chen) to spy on her spouse (Wu) and his lover (Qin), both the duo’s liaisons and the movie’s narrative momentum eventually grind to a halt.
There’s still more to come—disco-drag interludes; teary karaoke epiphanies; a love triangle involving the boyfriend, the private dick and his girlfriend—though Spring Fever’s interest in its characters wanes faster than yours does. All that’s left is to enjoy the ravishing visuals, which range from gorgeously dusky scenes of semidarkness to the sort of smeary neon palettes that Wong Kar-wai has virtually patented. For misguided formalists, such copious eye candy may be enough to excuse the film’s ponderous, obscure objectifying of desire. Everyone else will simply feel feverish, flustered and fed up.—David Fear
Watch the trailer