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This is the story of Mei, a young woman on a trip from East to West after her escape from her provincial Chinese village. Beginning in Chongqing and a disastrous factory job, Mei soon heads out for London and a marriage to an older man where her entrapment begins anew. Written by
Pusan International Film Festival
An International Story of rural naivety & of moving onward & outward
I am enjoying this straightforward story, shown on Film 4, initially set in modern contemporary China, free from censorship and which portrays through the eyes of the bored, restless young woman and the life she leads needed simply to move on.
Those of us, yes, myself included, who had to move away from staid, quiet rural backwaters and just 'set-off', will feel an affinity, an earthy matter-of-fact rawness about just doing what happens to come along, whether wise, or unwise.
All film producing countries have such tales of passage and morality and this succeeds by being slightly documentary in style and paying the same emphasis to all that happens, thus neither promoting or dramatising them; whether that's the routine preparation of a duck for eating or finding a miniature British gin bottle and keeping it as a souvenir where her father is scouring out a living on a vast rubbish site.
Filmed in 2008, the snapshot of a hugely changing China may already be out of date. But, should be seen, almost for just doing that. Romantically lolling in a landscape fringed by a forest of cranes over huge skeletons of grey, unfinished buildings and then an oxen led by a farmer plods by. The girl asks to listens to her boyfriend's I-Pod on colour-matching headphones. His designer sunglasses hint so strongly to the draw of the West and how, falsely, of course, how London etc has become the exotic land of dreams, via simplistic and overemphasised stereotyped icons.
I'm not going to comment on the girl's plight or make any judgements. Yes, as I said, it is a story of that's been told a thousand times but this is fresh, with natural, sweary dialogue and situations that range from the mundane to the bizarre (but believable). It does side-step some moral issues simply to keep the story flowing and gives us a glimpse of our culture through the eyes of an emotionally bruised but determined youth.
I wasn't relishing watching this, due to the (few) not-so-favourable reviews but overall I found it unpretentious, fresh and largely interesting tale and without the oh-so obvious finger-wagging that can accompany such a rites of passage tale. There's also some suitably enigmatic soundtrack music from John Parish.
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