Hongqi Li – Huangjin zhou AKA Routine Holiday (2008)

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QUOTE:
Topics from social awkwardness to forced nutrition are among the subjects discussed by a man and the various acquaintances that drop by to sit on his couch during a vacation in “Routine Holiday,” a film so utterly devoid of pleasure or meaning it defies comparison. Pointless extended silences and uncomfortable spatial dynamics define this affected drama far more than insightful commentary does.

“Routine Holiday” is a nearly perfect festival movie. Wide release is not an option for a film that that takes the “motion” out of “motion pictures,” and only increased post-Olympic China fever will stoke any interest in even art house release overseas. Distribution in Asia, where Hollywood is king, is also a long shot.

A national holiday is the impetus for Li Hongqi’s (NETPAC winner “So Much Rice”) plodding meditation on China’s socio-political ills. The locus for a series of wooden conversations is Tuo Ga’s (Yang Bo) home, where a parade of friends and relatives drop by on their day off to say … absolutely nothing. The most excitement comes from the Lovelorn Man (Xiao He), who would really like to have an affair — and goes so far as to tell his wife so. The dour space inhabited by a man, his son, two brothers, and a committed couple is suitably bleak, and echoes the characters’ bleak worldviews. Continue reading

Kaige Chen – Caught in the Web (2012)

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The story begins on a bus, when white-collar worker Ye refuses to give up her seat to a senior citizen. Her defiance is videotaped by a journalist intern and played during a news show. The video sparks intense debate on and off the Internet. Some Internet users search for Ye’s personal information and post it all online. The issue soon brings tremendous changes to the families of both the journalist intern and Ye’s boss. Continue reading

Sijie Dai – Niu-Peng AKA China, my sorrow (1989)

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Dai Sijie’s first feature film. Filmed in the south of France with a mostly non-professional cast. As Dai’s famous film Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, the story of Niu-peng is about the Cultural revolution, the re-education programs, and about music.
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Yen-ping Chu – Yi shi er niao AKA One Stone and Two Birds (2005)

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During the reign of Emperor Jia Jing of the Ming Dynasty, the evil court official Yan Song relies on the emperor favoritism towards him, becoming overbearing and domineering. An honest official Zhang Ying Long impeaches Yan Song w/ a “Ten Cimes Five Deceits” against him. But instead he gets flogged 30 times, and banished to a far off frontier Guizhou.

Zhang Ying Long’s remonstration won the hearts of the common people, on the day of his banishment thousands of people turned out to see him off. At the sight of this, Yan Sung knows that if he does not kill off Zhang Ying Long, he will be unable to deter other court officials. Thereupon, he arranges for assassins to kill Zhang Ying Long during the journey. Continue reading

Fei Xie – Ben ming nian AKA Black Snow (1990)

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A semi-literate who was deprived of schooling during the Cultural Revolution, Li Huiquan, is released from labor camp. But his attempts to make good are continually thwarted. His street stall selling clothes puts him on the fringe of the black market, and he soon gets lured back into his old neighbourhood gangs. His disenchanted comrades include a nightclub chanteuse as well as an escaped convict. (IMDb) Continue reading

Yimou Zhang – Xingfu Shiguang aka Happy Times (2000)

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Synopsis: A man stretching the truth for his own sake soon begins doing the same for someone else, with increasingly complicated results, in this gentle comedy from China. Zhao (Zhao Benshan) is a guy in his early fifties who’s out of work but still wants to marry his girlfriend (Dong Lifan). However, his often cranky sweetheart thinks he runs a hotel, and Zhao is trying to keep the illusion alive with the help of his pal Li (Li Xuejian) by turning an abandoned bus into a “love hotel” for couples who lack privacy in their homes. But business isn’t all that good, since the old-fashioned Zhao asks unmarried couples to keep their doors open to ensure nothing untoward happens. As Zhao tries to convince his girlfriend to walk down the aisle with him — and struggles to raise the money she demands first — she introduces him to Wu Jing (Dong Jie), the blind teenage stepdaughter she inherited from her marriage to her now-deceased first husband. The woman insists that Zhao give Wu Jing a job in his hotel; since the bus/hotel has been towed away, this isn’t a practical possibility. Zhao and Li put Wu Jing through a fake job interview to keep up appearances, and when she breaks down in tears talking about her deadbeat father, he decides he has to do something for her. Zhao moves Wu Jing into his home, and with the help of his friends, sets up a phony massage therapy center where Wu Jing works with the “clients” — actually Zhao’s friends, most of whom are also unemployed. But the bigger and more complex the illusion becomes, the harder it is to maintain, though Zhao feels compelled to do so for the sake of the girl’s feelings. -Mark Deming (AMG)
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Yimou Zhang – Da hong deng long gao gao gua aka Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

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March 20, 1992
Review/Film; Dissension in the Ranks of a Household’s 4 Wives
By Janet Maslin, New York Times

Songlian (Gong Li), the college-educated beauty who arrives at a feudal manor house at the outset of
Zhang Yimou’s “Raise the Red Lantern,” insists on carrying her own suitcase, which is virtually the
last act of independence she will be permitted during the course of the story. Forced by her stepmother
into what is essentially the life of a concubine, Songlian has agreed to become the fourth wife of a
feudal patriarch, a man so regal that each of his wives presides over her own separate home. Continue reading