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She, a Chinese

Cultural cliches run amok in "She, a Chinese," first narrative feature by mainland writer-director Xiaolu Guo.

Cultural cliches run amok in “She, a Chinese,” first narrative feature by mainland China-born, U.K.-based writer-director Xiaolu Guo (“How Is Your Fish Today?”). A miserabilist portrait of a young Chinese slacker who flees her homeland with a stash of money and finds life in London isn’t much better, the pic recycles ethnic/character stereotypes and platitudes to dull, uninvolving effect. Guo’s rep in certain literary circles will nudge this along the fest trail but little farther. As a filmmaker, she still has plenty to prove, Locarno’s Golden Leopard victory notwithstanding.

Li Mei (Huang Lu, the abused lead in “Blind Mountain”) is a trashy village girl near Chongqing, central China, who hangs with gangster types (Wu Leiming, Wei Yibo) and ends up illegally staying in the U.K., where she platonically marries a kindly retired math teacher (Geoffrey Hutchings, OK) but canoodles with a Muslim Indian eatery owner (Chris Ryman). The slight narrative moves along, but Huang’s one-note perf (bored, down-in-the-mouth) doesn’t make her unsympathetic character more likable, and dialogue is either functional or trite. Low-budget tech credits are better-looking in the China-set scenes than the Blighty-set scenes. Chinese title means “China Girl.”

She, a Chinese

U.K.

  • Production: An Optimum Releasing release of a U.K. Film Council, Film4 presentation, in association with Screen Yorkshire, EM Media, Intervista Digital Media, Rosem Films, of a Tigerlily Films, Warp X production. (International sales: Films Boutique, Berlin.) Produced by Natasha Dack. Executive producers, Caroline Cooper Charles, Robin Gutch, Jo McClellan, Hugo Heppell, Suzanne Alizart, Will Clarke. Co-producers, Christian Flux, Sylvain Bursztejn. Directed, written by Xiaolu Guo.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Zillah Bowes; editor, Andrew Bird; music, John Parish; production designer, Tine Mette Jespersen; art directors, Yao Jun, Maya Bazzini; costume designer, Sam Perry. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 13, 2009. Mandarin, English dialogue. Running time: 98 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Huang Lu, Zhang Lanli, Xiao Xianpeng, Li Jiyi, Wu Leiming, Zhou Chicheng, Wei Yibo, Geoffrey Hutchings, Chris Ryman.
  • Music By: