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Thursday, August 22, 2013

SHENG SI JIE / STOLEN LIFE (2005)

In drab, ultra-naturalistic style, Shaohong Li tells the old, old story of a wronged young woman, this time in the back streets of modern, impersonal Beijing. But a new setting isn’t quite enough to freshen things up. We follow a new university co-ed, out of her social depth after a hard-knock childhood growing up with her grandmother & aunt while her absent parents work at distant dead-end jobs. A lovely, but sullen girl, she briefly blooms with a first boyfriend, but soon gets pregnant and drops out of school. Worse, the boyfriend turns out to have a wife and another kid. Soon, he’s plotting to sell the new baby, sending our heroine into a deep depression and himself off to yet another young thing. The general gloom & doom in the atmosphere begins to feel forced, cribbed from some lost Thomas Hardy novel, TESS OF BEIJING. But the characters stop acting like living breathing beings about halfway in, especially, the young father whose baby-selling stratagems involve too much long-range planning for him to think up, let alone pull off. Disappointing.

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