XIU XIU: The Sent Down Girl
DIRECTOR: Joan Chen
COUNTRY: China 1998
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Yue Lu
MUSIC: Johnny Chen
CAST: Lu Lu, Lopsang, Jie Gao
SUPER FEATURES: Fabulous acting.
For some films, not having much of a dialogue is murder. And then there are films like this one where so little is actually said, and the film says so much more. Without a doubt, this is one of the best acted and directed films this reviewer has seen in quite some time. Sadly enough the story and point of view that is offered may eventually get Joan Chen in serious hot water with the Chinese authorities and end her film career.
This film is political and then some, in a fashion that is not exactly subtle, although we forget quick enough the political aspects of the story and take on the reality of the situation. As it is filmed and directed, there are not many visually stunning films that can stand up to this one, even if it is not something that the Chinese authorities may appreciate.
It is the story of a young girl that is caught up in China's cultural revolution, and is sent away from the city, as a type of cross culturization that was created then. However, China's leaders probably did not expect, or made provisions for the corruption and total disregard for human decency when it created this program.
Xiu Xiu has been taken to the country to learn something about farming, which she is supposed to then bring back to town some time later and help teach others. However, we soon find out that there are other things at stake here. She is given to a man who lives alone, mostly due to an accident in his earlier days in a "nasty war in Tibet" when he lost his manhood. He has been given a "gift" of a girl to keep him company because he has a spotless record in his twenty years of "service" to the state. Lao Jin is a good man, and is dedicated to the well being of the young girl. Xiu Xiu is counting the days that she is to stay here, and soon realizes that no one is going to get her out of here. As this happens, she learns that there may be a way out, and that is to allow herself to be taken by some of the men in the nearby town, who are making her believe that they are doing her a favor and that they will try to get her a ticket back to her home town, and family.
Soon enough, the situation gets out of hand, and her relationship with Lao Jin gets seriously strained. It doesn't help that he has to take her to town and into the hospital for some internal bleeding problems which suggest that she may have been trying to create a situation to help her get out of there. To no avail.
The film then has to wind to its conclusion, and hopeless situation. Xiu Xiu has been duped and tricked and trapped, and there is only one way out. The film ends at that conclusion.
If there is something that makes this film that much more important, it is that it is an incredibly visual and beautifully done film, that should be considered a tremendous glow and piece of work in the Chinese country. Film making with this kind of sumptuous attention to detail, directing and acting, deserves a heck of a lot more.
Many of the films out of China, tend to skirt the political issues. Zhang Yimou's TO LIVE is one of the films that come to mind that also depicted what is perceived as an error by the Cultural Revolution. This film takes it even further, by associating the immediate blame on those who might have the "power" to make the decisions. They are turning the blind eye towards the truth, and the hospital scene shows that all the women and men in there already call Xiu Xiu a whore. No attempt, other than Lao Jin's is made, or any steps taken, to find out what really happened, and what has really taken place. Many of the men in the hospital laugh, as if they all had already had their chance with the girl anyway.
This film is highly memorable for its visually strinking cinematography, of the Chinese country side. If anything it makes it look overly romantic, with one counter idea. The young girl's version of romantic, or growing up is the total opposite of that of nature's, which the camera can capture so well. The end result is that it is very sad that Chinese authorities will more than likely punish the likes of Joan Chen for doing this, when those upholding their system should be held accountable instead. Human rights, then becomes a matter of upholding the system, not the people that live under it.
Monumental acting, and most of it is simply motion and movement, and so few words. The unspoken dialogues between Xiu Xiu and Lao Jin are so well done, that it is hard not to appreciate this masterpiece of a film, and help it
go to another level in film history. Perhaps, we are afraid to tackle these issues, but films like this state loud and clear the responsibility that the arts have to the public, something that Chinese authorities have made sure does not develop much.
Worth seeing, but the film has its brutal side towards the last part of it.
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