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Wednesday 5 October 2016

I Am Not Madame Bovary, Film, China, 2016, Zurich Film Festival, 9* out of 10

Liu Zheniun’s screenplay, adapted from his novel, is a brilliant satire of Chinese State, reminiscent of Kafka’s “The Trial” – but in reverse. Director Feng Xiaogang’s cinematography is inventive, beautiful and brilliant. Fan Bingbing's performance in the leading role is outstanding.

In order to obtain a second apartment Li Xeluian (Fan Bingbing) comes up with a plan to circumvent he Chinese legislation forbidding and begins to implement it with her husband. The plan involves that they will first divorce and then remarry after the second dwelling has been allocated to her. But her husband has other plans: after the divorce he implements the plan with another woman, leaving Li Xeluian with nothing. But the jilted young woman is nothing if not persistent and resourceful. She starts a battle through the Chinese judicial and political institutions to have her sham divorce reversed and she is not ready to give up no matter how long and difficult this is. What happens next is something that is reminiscent of Kafka’s “The Trial” – but in reverse: Li Xeluian is the grain of sand in the Chinese Judicial and administrative system that makes the institutions start to turn in on themselves and on their representatives.

Liu Zheniun’s screenplay, adapted from his novel, is a brilliant satire of Chinese State and political made poignant by his depiction of his characters as very real and feeling human being, whether they are ordinary people or functionaries of the People’s Republic of China who are trying to make its institutions work while protecting their positions. The acting is excellent with an outstanding performance by Fan Bingbing. Director Feng Xiaogang’s cinematography is inventive, beautiful and brilliant. The combination of screenplay, acting and cinematography makes this a highly original and spell binding film. I Am Not Madame Bovary is a pleasure to watch and very accessible to international audiences. Speculating about what is behind the film’s English title is one of the fringe benefits Western audiences are left with after seeing this memorable film. 

I Am Not Madame Bovary richly deserves the many prizes it has received, among them the nomination as Best Film at the prestigious San Sebastian Film Festival.

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