SHE, A CHINESE - GUO XIAOLU
Dan Sallit's review of Toronto International Film Festival 2009
The Golden Leopard at Locarno went to She, a Chinese, the second feature from the expatriate Chinese novelist Guo Xiaolu. Advance word skewed toward the negative, and a flashy trailer increased my pessimism. But the film dazzled me. It becomes clear almost immediately that its organising principle is not story or even style, but the force of Guo’s personality, which whips together diverse materials into a fluent commentary that transcends form. As the sullen, deadpan young protagonist Mei (Huang Lu) rides over assorted trials in rural China with a combination of strength and obliviousness, and then bolts from a guided tour to try her survival skills in the UK, Guo narrates her passage with funny chapter-heading intertitles, bursts of loud rock music (John Parish’s score is excellent), and comically rushed transitions. The emotional gap between the story upheavals and Mei’s inner life reminded me of several major filmmakers: Godard for the playful exploitation of the audience’s distance from the fiction; Sternberg for the loving fascination with surfaces that reveal nothing; and Renoir for the way that philosophical perspective is used to lighten a dark story’s mood. I have no idea why Guo’s considerable talent is lost on so many critics.
Dan Sallit, Senses of Cinema, issue 53
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