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Mahjong: New Independent Chinese Cinema

Thursday, November 6, 2008
6:30 p.m. Little Moth
Peng Tao (China, 2007)

Bay Area Premiere

(Xue chan). Scammers, child traffickers, one-armed beggars, and organ sellers populate the rich Dickensian world of Peng Tao’s exhilarating film, which resembles in its constant motion and sense of immediacy the best efforts of the Dardennes brothers. The husband-and-wife team Luo and Guihua purchase (or “adopt”) little Xiao Ezi, a.k.a. Little Moth, whose legs are paralyzed. Plopping her down on the nearest pavement to earn the sympathy and spare change of passersby, Luo relaxes while idly smoking cigarettes with a new colleague, Zhong, a “king of the beggars” who may not be what he seems. Guihua and Little Moth are left to their own devices, and vulnerabilities. No contemplative long takes or still camera work here; Peng seemingly attaches his camera directly to his characters’ backs as they dart, squeeze, and scrape through the landscape. Visually, Little Moth is as stunning as the Dardennes’ La Promesse or The Son; it’s also just as devastating emotionally, and as pointed in its social concern.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Peng, based on the novel Xue Chan by Bai Tianguang. Photographed by Huang Yi. With Hong Qifa, Han Dequn, Zhao Huihui, Zhang Lei. (99 mins, In Mandarin with English subtitles, Color, DigiBeta, From the artist)