A portrait of mid-'90s Beijing through the eyes of two very different Chinese femmes, "Days of Miandi" catches the flavor of the moment with often considerable accuracy but is too often marred by stiff acting and dialogue. This Berlin Film School graduation feature by mainland-born Ma Yingli, 32, could hitch occasional specialized screenings but is more interesting as a calling card. One woman is Xiaoxia (Gao Junxia), a musician, who returns after a spell in the West to find Beijing a money-obsessed metropolis; she takes over the running of her brother's club, and has some short-term success by featuring progressive rock music, but is forced to sell out when the authorities clamp down on some nude performance art. Other is freelance photographer Linlin (Li Qinqin), who's kicked out of art college for sleeping with a foreigner and then takes up with a rich German (Wolfgang Mietz) who funds an exhibition of her work in Munich.
Pic basically crosscuts between the two as they carve their paths through modern-day China — Xiaoxia as the sophisticate re-embracing her country, Linlin as the rebellious artist who mixes with rock musicians and can’t wait to go abroad. Their lives overlap at Xiaoxia’s club, but there’s no real integration of the two story strands.
Gao, a striking actress who’s lived abroad, often looks uncomfortable in the part. The more offbeat-looking Li is much better and more believable as the proto-hippie photog, though she’s not helped by some clumsy scenes with Mietz as her adoring Teuton lover. Best thing about the film is how it catches Beijing’s thriving alternative society of musicians and often highly pretentious artists, scraping a living beyond the authorities’ purview.
Tech credits are good, given the low budget of the film, which shot in 40 days. “Miandi” is the slang name for Beijing’s characteristic little cabs.