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Linus de Paoli [Film Festival 08.21.09] United Kingdom France Germany movie review drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Xiaolu Guo
Writers: Xiaolu Guo
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Linus de Paoli
Rating: 7 out of 10

The winner of this year's Golden Leopard, She, a Chinese is also the last film I saw in Locarno. A large European co-production between the UK, France and Germany, She, A Chinese was mostly shot in China and London. Hence, it's a truly multicultural film in production as well as in story.

Li Mei is a young woman from a small Chinese province. She hates her life as a fieldworker and doesn’t want to marry the man her mother has chosen. After being raped by a truck driver, she decides to take off and start a new life in the big city. Unfortunately, she is met with even more hardship. When she gets kicked out of her factory job, she finds work in a shady, red light district barbershop that offers more than just haircuts. That is where she meets “Spikey,” a slightly crazy wannabe-veteran, and falls in love with him. But nothing in Li’s life last too long… Her journey continues and leads her to London, where she has to deal with a host of new problems – and men.

Without giving anything away I can say that the film leads to an open end. It follows a very epic structure, telling its loose story in numbered episodes. Despite the absence of a classic dramatic structure, it is pretty interesting to follow Li Mei on her journey in spite of the fact that I didn’t like her character. Her beauty makes her attractive to all kinds of men, but to me she always remained a rather distant person. She rarely expresses her feelings and seems to be in a bad mood most of the time. It is not a love story, although love is a topic that comes up a lot. She has very different relationships with multiple, very different men. Every lover projects something different onto her: The country girl, the whore, the younger woman and, of course, the Chinese.

What I enjoyed most about Xiaolu Guo’s film is the frequent change of location. The family life in the conservative countryside gives a completely different impression of modern China than the anonymous concrete jungle of the city that Li Mei moves to first. And although I have been to London a couple of times, I have never seen it from the angle presented here.

Never the less, it is a worthy winner for sure, but not my favourite film in competition this year. After a while it gets repetitive and you wonder how long it will take until Li Mei moves on. It’s not boring, but not exactly enthralling either. What does this bad-tempered girl wants out of life? This film doesn’t really answer this question as Li does not know herself, but whatever she experiences is obviously not enough – so she has to keep moving. It’s an interesting and sometimes even fascinating study. Maybe a bit too far away from myself, so that I could enjoy it, but never truly relate to it.

That’s it for Locarno 09, it sure was a pleasure!

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Hal (13 years ago) Reply

thanks for review, I want to see this

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