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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Stolen Life (review)

One of the most famous female filmmakers in China, Li Shaohong is a master on a par with the likes of Zhang Yimou (her classmate at the Beijing Film Academy), but doesn’t she realize that a delicate, intimate film like this one will never make her a household name among kung-fu fanboys? This quietly bitter story — about Yan-ni (Xun Zhou), a shy, sheltered college student, and Mu-yu (Jun Wu), the delivery boy who becomes her first friend and lover and later merely the latest in a long line of people who’ve betrayed her — is a wonder of hushed feminist horror, gently flaying modern Chinese society for its hypocrisy on the condition of women, pushing them in certain approved directions, exploiting their weaknesses, and expecting productive, well-adjusted citizens to emerge on the other end. That any actually do is a marvel, and whether or not Yan-ni will remains a great mystery until the very end. Winner of the Best Narrative Feature award at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival, the film is being released on DVD as part of the Global Film Initiative’s campaign to “promote cross-cultural understanding through cinema,” which is does beautifully, and so the disc features a discussion guide including notes from the director and a fact guide to modern China. [buy at Amazon]

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MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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