Dir/prod/scr: Zou Peng. China 2009. 81mins.
A first film which seems unsure of what it wants to say or how to go about it, this trip to the North Chinese city of Harbin isn’t a clear portrait of the city or its inhabitants; at best, it could be described as an attempt to portray the mood of contemporary young people living there today through an ill-defined plot and characters.
Shot with a handheld camera, each take lasting several minutes, and mostly in an alienating long-shot, this looks like a graduation film. It’s hard to envisage it at many other festivals, while distribution channels must surely be limited.
Xiao Xue (Tian Yi-wen) is 19 and works in a fashion store by day. At night, she accompanies her boss and his various guests to restaurants and night clubs. Her friends don’t approve of this, but she reckons it’s the best way to climb up the social ladder. After a torrid clinch with the boss Brother Wei (Wu Rui-peng) in one of the film’s rare close-up sequences, she discovers she is pregnant but insists on taking care of the baby by herself, rejecting any attempts by her old boyfriend Dong Song (Liu Xing-ping) to help.
All the actors are amateurs, plucked from the street by the director and even improvising their own lines. Even Xiao Xue is more like a sketch than an actual character. There’s no sense of pace or drama here as one long shot follows another in an assembly line of unexceptional observations on life in Harbin.
Some of the camera moves are nicely engineered but the quality of the image is far from impressive.
Zou Peng Film Studios
L’Est Film Group
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Pablo Enrique Mendoza Ruiz