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East Palace, West Palace
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Genre:Art/Foreign
Year:1997
Rating:NR
Cast:Zhang Yuan

The film's title is Chinese slang for the bathrooms located on the edge of Tiannamen Square, favorite haunts of Beijing gays. Billed as the first mainland Chinese drama to deal openly with the subject of homosexuality, the film angered censors and this resulted in mainland authorities confiscating director Zhang Yuan's passport shortly after his return from Hong Kong on April 10, 1997 therefore preventing him from attending that year's Cannes Film Festival along with the film. Primarily a psychological drama, it centers on a verbal cat-and-mouse game played between a gay writer and the straight policeman who arrests and interrogates him. The two meet in the square park, a place where many gays gather to pick up lovers and make out. Though homosexuality is not illegal, those who openly practice it are subject to often brutal police harassment. It is during one of the cops' frequent raids on the park that writer A-Lan kisses officer Shi. Later he sends the cop a gift; shortly thereafter, the cop happens to arrest Shi. During the interrogation, shameless A-Lan tells his life story, episodes of which appear via flashback. Many of his tales seem designed to provoke Shi into challenging his own sexuality. Sandra Brennan

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