Directorial debuts seldom come more well-shaped and classy than Liu Fendou’s Green Hat (Lu Mao Tze). It shows that the 35 year-old director from Peking knows his trade. He was the scriptwriter for Shi Ren Jiu’s A Beautiful New World, Zhang Yi Bay’s Spring Subways, and the two Zhang Yang films, Love Spicy Soup and Shower.
Even though it’s a totally different film from the acclaimed Shower, Green Hat has some of the same humour and elegance, and an eye for surprising turns. The title is a reference to the dynamics between the old and new China, between masculinity and humiliation. In the old days a male servant in a brothel wore a green scarf. In modern times a man who is betrayed by his wife or lover is said to wear a green hat.
The movie starts with documentary pictures of thousands of men marching for Chairman Mao, all wearing green hats. A few minutes later we meet a bankrobber of today, wearing a green scarf. The start of the movie is a treat – in fact, it’s so good, that the latter part does not quite live up to it.
In a Tarantino-esque way, we are presented with a team of bankrobbers, who anticipate their big heist before heading off to the U.S. There’s a beautifully self-reflexive shot that follows the robbers as they walk down a beach; one of them, whose girlfriend is in America, wears a green scarf.
The second half of the film changes as we follow the policeman who hunts them, who has problems in bed and whose wife has taken a sultry lover as a result. The quest for love haunts both the thief in the green scarf and the policeman. The film talks about sex and masculinity by reversing roles in a way that’s very original for a Chinese film. The women, for example, are looking for career moves, sex and instant satisfaction, while the men are looking for love. And we’re talking about men who are brutal robbers and tough policemen.
In some way, the movie turns from variations on Pulp Fiction to Peeping Tom, but under the elegant surface and the dark second part, there is a humanity that makes Green Hat an enjoyable movie that’s summed up with the following question: Where is the love?
© FIPRESCI 2004