Happy Times

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Happy Times
Directed by Zhang Yimou
Produced by Terrence Malick
Zhou Ping
Yang Qinglong
Zhang Weiping
Zhao Yu
Written by Gui Zi
Short story:
Mo Yan
Starring Zhao Benshan
Dong Jie
Music by San Bao
Cinematography Hou Yong
Edited by Zhai Rui
Distributed by Canada:
Mongel Media
Fox Japan
United States:
Sony Pictures Classics
Release dates
December 31, 2000
November 10, 2001
February 7, 2002
Running time
102 min
Country China
Language Mandarin

Happy Times (simplified Chinese: 幸福时光; traditional Chinese: 幸福時光; pinyin: Xìngfú Shíguāng) is a 2000 tragicomedy film directed by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, starring Zhao Benshan and Dong Jie. It is based loosely on the short story, Shifu: You'll Do Anything for a Laugh (师傅越来越幽默) by Mo Yan; the story appears in English translation in the collection of the same title translated by Howard Goldblatt. Though the story and the film share a common opening, they begin to diverge almost immediately.


In the city of Dalian, an old and laid-off factory worker (played by Zhao Benshan) seeks to marry an obese and divorced middle-aged woman (played by Dong Lifan), who he hopes will bring him warmth and comfort in life. So he sets out desperately to find a way to make money for the rich wedding he has promised to present. The hapless man and his friend (played by Fu Biao) decide to renovate a broken bus on top of a hill that is popular for romantic couples. He turns this bus into a small dwelling he names "Happy Times Hotel," which he will rent to willing couples visiting the hill.

As he brags about his newly opened "hotel" and how much money he is making, he finds himself entrusted with the care of the woman's emaciated, blind stepdaughter Wu Ying (played by Dong Jie), who is unwanted in the house. Not willing to expose his scheme and ruin his attempt to get married, the man enlists the help of his retired co-workers, who agree to do all they can to make the lonely girl happy at her new job as a masseuse in the "hotel."

As the story unfolds, a touching friendship between the childless man and the dejected, orphaned girl under his care develops, leading to a moving and surprising conclusion.



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