Shower (洗澡)

Shower (洗澡 / xǐ zÇŽo) is my current favourite Chinese movie. It’s a funny but sad story about an old bathhouse owner, his two sons, and their bathhouse patrons that plays out amidst the rapid changes and upheaval of contemporary urban China. It’s a personal, family-and-neighbourhood-level look at the way life in China is changing in drastic ways.

The movie is full of fun characters and their mundane problems: the old men and their cricket-fighting squabbles, the middle-aged husband using the bathhouse to hide from his wife, the wannabe primadonna with debilitating stage fright who uses the public shower as his personal practice room…

The bathhouse in the movie looks like a slightly fancier version of the one I visited in Tianjin’s Nanshi hutongs, which has since been bulldozed.

My only (very picky) squabble with this movie is that it seems to unnecessarily over-romanticize the way of life that’s rapidly disappearing from China’s major urban centres. Some scenes, like the evening neighbourhood park scenes, are just a little too colourful, tidy, and well-mannered compared to what I’ve seen here. If the director had allowed a few more ragged edges, it would feel just that much more authentic.

There’s plenty of dialogue that intermediate language students could pick up no problem, and the accents aren’t too thick.

Aside from the occasional mooning (mostly old-man butts) and some offensive language during a humourous yelling match between a married couple, this movie is pretty much family-safe.