The movie begins with a businessman taking an impersonal, mechanised shower with processes more akin to a car wash than a personal cleaning routine. The process looks very efficient in leaving a person squeaky clean and provides no interaction. Although the need for interaction may not be so pronounced in Western societies, in China, in the village from which Da Ming hails from, the bath house provides a friendly, social and traditional part of daily life.
Da Ming is a businessman who goes back home when he mistakenly believes his father is dead. He confronts his mentally-handicapped brother about why he sent him a picture which showed their father dead and he replied that he missed him. Emotions seem easier to express in this place where water surrounds everyone. The time spent taking care of oneself is acknowledged as a luxury and the men in the baths note that in the city you wouldn’t have time for it.
Da Ming comes back to a family he rejected when he left them behind and finds that he is needed and loved. People share and know each other and the support they provide is something he’d lost. Small home town connections provide an intimacy and involvement that seems far removed from daily rush-hour life. This is a soothing and comfortable movie which I watched twice before returning. There are funny and tender moments and thoughtful pauses along the way. Most enjoyable.
Xizao (“Shower”) is directed by Yang Zhang and stars Quanxin Pu as Da Ming, Xu Zhu as the father Master Liu and Wu Jian as the exuberant brother Er Ming. The movie was released in the UK in 2001.