Monday, September 14, 2009

She, a Chinese

Showing at the Toronto International Film Festival: She, a Chinese, directed by Xiaolu Guo

Synopsis from the TIFF website:

She, a Chinese is a rock 'n' roll odyssey that follows a young woman on a soul-searching journey. The film stands in stark contrast with its title, which would seem to define the cultural and ethnic origins of its protagonist. But this is a truly nationless movie, addressing contemporary issues that trespass borders and blur socio-political lines into a globalized world of shared values and collective problems. Challenging the visual style of traditional Chinese cinema, novelist and filmmaker Guo Xiaolu focuses her subtle narrative on an enigmatic woman who creates her own path. Framed in chapters and often using short, lyrical captions or silent, beautifully composed snapshots of landscapes, the film is an unpretentiously sophisticated hybrid of documentary, creative writing, visual poetry and cinema.

Mei (Huang Lu) has never been further than five miles away from her native village in China. But an unusual combination of fate, curiosity and natural restlessness soon changes that. Looking for excitement and new adventures, she first arrives in Chong-qing. Life in the big city doesn't quite turn out as expected, however; fired from her factory job, she ends up working in a hair salon, where she meets and falls in love with Spikey (Wei Yi Bo), a gangster with a dragon tattoo. She knows he's a hit man with the mafia, so when one day he comes back covered in blood and dies in her arms, Mei must leave town, her dreams shattered. London is the city that unpleasantly greets this illegal immigrant. A new language, bland food and an unfamiliar set of rules now broaden her horizons, but the future is an enticing unknown.

While she was making She, a Chinese, Guo also shot Once Upon a Time Proletarian: 12 Tales of a Country, which is screening in the Festival's Real to Reel programme. Taken together, the two films paint a deft portrait of a young China.

Alternately accompanied by the soft musical score of John Parish and the punk-rock songs of Chinese bands like X.T.X & Cold Blooded Animal, Guo's graceful images are charged with an instinctive, tactile elegance. Romantic, at times melancholic, but always realistic, this is a story about survival and the art of leaving and longing. She, a Chinese glows with powerful inner charm and confirms Guo as one of the brightest talents of contemporary world cinema.

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