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Min Li, a trainee botanist is taken in by An's father. In such a beautiful, but lonely setting where the two are treated badly by the few men they communicate with, the women form a bond which quickly turns to unspeakable love. In a swirl of forbidden passion, love and opiate-induced intoxication they find themselves confronted with a society who will not accept same-sex love, a crime punishable by death. Written by
With "Balzac and the little seamstress" Dai Sijie delivered a nice period piece with some interesting reflections on the importance of literature, moving images and theatre. Although a large part of the crew were French, it had a real Chinese feel to it. That feeling is totally absent from Les filles du botaniste. One gets the impression it has been made to order, to cater to the European market. There's hardly any Chinese name on the credit roll, if they're not French they're Vietnamese. The story could have been powerful but has been diluted by its cliché approach and its David Hamilton-esquire photography. In addition, I got completely disoriented by the Vietnamese setting. The worst mismatch was the temple. It was so blatantly a Vietnamese, not a Chinese temple. And using Ho Guom Lake right in the middle of Old Hanoi was not a wise decision. There were plenty of other lakes to choose from, while the urban setting of Ho Guom made it hard to forget we were not supposed to be in 2006. The mountain landscape in the movie is similar to the karst rocks in southern China, so no problem with that. I even wonder if the Kunlin in the film is not meant to be a combination of Kunming and Guilin. Still, I felt cheated by this movie. It is as if the makers are not taking the public serious. It was the same with Memoirs of a Geisha, another Eastern tale made consumable to Western tastes, with 3 very Chinese actresses trying to be Japanese and failing. But hey, who cares? If it has slanted eyes it's all the same, no? One of the commentators to Memoirs of a Geisha was calling it neo-colonialism. I think the same could be said of these Filles.
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