Saturday, 6 March 2010

she a chinese (w&d xiaolu guo)

There's an interview in the Guardian with Guo, where she's quite scathing about the British film culture, in particular, one gets the impression, with regard to its distribution strategy and criticism. The film has a niche spot in the ICA, tucked into a season of female film directors. It's probably not an easy sell, as they say, but that doesn't quite justify the fact that its picked up so little attention.

The film itself is split into two parts. The first part occurs in China, as the young and charismatic protagonist Li Mei, played with verve by Lu Huang, moves from the countryside to one of the country's many growing cities. After various adventures, and after developing a slightly sign-posted affinity with Big Ben, she comes to London, where the second half takes place, as Li Mei struggles to get by as an illegal immigrant, collecting unlikely bedfellows along the way. I found myself getting more from the film's observational Chinese narrative than the English one which might be because of the window it offers into another culture, or might be because the relationships of the second part lend the piece a slightly more melodramatic air. Nevertheless, the film as a whole holds together, and there are many neatly observed moments which give it a quirky, unusual feel, as the director uses situation and images to build up her portrayal of Li Mei's world, in particular the snake in the Chinese river, and the anatomy class in which she partakes in London.

She, A Chinese is something of a gentle ride, and sometimes feels as though its narrative might have benefited from being a tad more ambitious. Nevertheless, Guo handles her material deftly, and it doesn't come as a surprise to learn the film had done well on the festival circuit. However, in spite of several sex scenes and the cross-culture London storylines, it probably doesn't fit into the right marketing quadrant to warrant the kind of exposure Guo might have hoped for. Which is probably something for which it should be applauded. (The fault lies not with the film but the system). It's refreshing to see a UK financed film that adopts an understated approach, casting a cool cinematic eye over one woman's journey through a globalised world.

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