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Perpetual Motion, April 24

49th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Monday, April 24, 2006
9:25 p.m. Perpetual Motion
Ning Ying (China, 2005)

(Wuqiong dong). In Ning Ying's Perpetual Motion, four successful, intellectual women in their forties meet in an old courtyard house on the night before Chinese New Year to celebrate and play mah-jongg. The hostess's husband is away, so it's the perfect opportunity for her to figure out which of her three friends sent him the erotic e-mail that she discovered while looking through his desk. The result is a darkly comic, sometimes poignant evening of confession and memory set against a backdrop of feasts, evening fireworks, and kitschy holiday TV specials. The film's bracingly frank discussion of sex may surprise some Western viewers, as will its irreverent references to China's past. "She won't poison him, will she?" asks the brassy real estate entrepreneur Madame Ye as she contemplates leaving her dog in the care of the cook. "Her face is so reminiscent of the 'class struggle era.'" The leading actresses are an eclectic collection of well-known celebrities in China: famous publisher and author Hung Huang plays the hostess, Niuniu; Huang's mother, who was once Chairman Mao's personal English interpreter, plays the cook; composer and vocalist Liu Sola is the bisexual Lala; the relentlessly perky Qinqin is played by film star Li Qinqin; and Ping Yanni, the daughter of a former state minister, portrays Madame Ye. Perpetual Motion invites viewers to examine the mystery of revelation and disappointment that can come not only within marriage, but within the hairpin turns of history.

—Pam Troy

• Written by Ning, Liu Sola, Hung Huang. Photographed by Andrea Cavazzuti, Ning. With Hung Huang, Liu Sola, Li Qinqin, Ping Yanni. (90 mins)