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Bore or score?
Latest Updated by 2006-07-10 10:55:40
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For 105 minutes, two "talking heads" explore what it's like to make movies in China. Some viewers called the film "great and bizarre," and some said they fell asleep in the art house.

Two people relentlessly talking to each other about cinema doesn't make for big box office. But that's not the idea. This film, "Dreams May Come," is so avant-garde and experimental that it speaks to the aficionados and industry-types only, but not ordinary filmgoers.

With the "plot" - actually, it has no plot - centering entirely on dialogues between the two characters, the third directorial feature by Chinese director/actress Xu Jinglei is so specialized and intellectually daunting that after its national release last Friday, only two Shanghai cinemas - the Paradise Warner Cinema City and Nextage Film Art Center - are screening the low-budget art-house film.

"Actually I don't have high box-office expectation on this movie," says Xu, 32, who has just finished judging the recent Shanghai International Film Festival, together with Luc Besson and veteran Chinese filmmaker Feng Xiaogang. "For me, what matters is how much fun and knowledge I gain from the shooting."

Based on the story of famous Beijing novelist Wang Shuo, who is also the film's playwright, the movie is the first in China to have just one set and two characters, just sitting and talking. Xu's co-star is Han Tongsheng, a famous director of TV serials.

From start to finish, Xu stars as the leading actress who shares her personal insider view of cinema, her feelings and the problems in acting with a TV serial director. The theme of their chat is dream and reality.

The structure also is reminiscent of another controversial picture, "Perpetual Motion," dubbed the Chinese version of "Sex and the City," by female director Ning Ying. The overlapping dialogues among its four women characters are considered a brave attempt at Chinese cinematography.

"Without magnificent scenes and stunning stunts, the film's straight-forward storyline centers on people's current situation, life and death," adds Xu, whose directorial debut, "My Father and I," and second production, "Letter from an Unknown Woman," won acclaim from both critics and fans. "These issues are never far from us."

Director Ning's film once received sharp criticism from audiences for its gloomy atmosphere and provocative dialogues, but Xu isn't worried about audience reactions, saying she never intended to appeal to the masses.

"So far I have received such different and extreme comments on the film," she says jokingly. "Some told me that it was a great movie with bizarre and creative layout, and some said they nearly fell asleep at the cinema."

The confident Xu is regarded a passionate and ambitious person who is not satisfied with her screen stereotype as a fair, genteel and cultivated woman; nor does she like the idea that she is engaging in a one-way process, merely expressing the ideas of the director as an actress.

Born in Beijing and graduating from the Beijing Film Academy in 1997, Xu built her fame in TV series and in films such as "Spicy Love Soup," "Spring Subway" and "I Love You."

"I wanted to take on the challenge of being a director because it presented an opportunity to learn more about my craft," she said in an earlier interview.

"My Father and I," Xu's directorial debut in 2003, won rave reviews and a Golden Rooster for Best Directing Debut. Her talent began to shine on the silver screen.

"Letter from an Unknown Woman," adapted from the famous novel by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, demonstrated her advancing progress. This exquisite and sentimental film, which also stars Jiang Wen and Huang Jue, garnered the Altadis Best New Director award at Spain's prestigious San Sebastian International Film Festival in 2004.

However, Xu's next project will touch on a more light-hearted, but undisclosed topic. Shanghai is one of her favorite cities and she is considering directing her next movie in the Pearl City.

Several episodes of "Dreams May Come" will be released on, a popular Website particularly for urban white-collar workers.

Films by Xu Jinglei

As director and actress

2006 "Dreams May Come"
2004 "Letter from an Unknown Woman"
2003 "My Father and I"

As actress

2005 "The Brothers"
2004 "Last Love, First Love"
2003 "The Heroic Duo"
2002 "I Love You"
2002 "Dazzling"
2002 "Spring Subway"
1998 "Spicy Love So"

Editor: Donald

By: Source: China View website
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