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Mahjong: New Independent Chinese Cinema

Thursday, November 20, 2008
7:00 p.m. The Other Half
Ying Liang (China, 2006)

(Ling yi ban). Director Ying Liang’s 2006 debut Taking Father Home won awards at numerous international film festivals, including San Francisco; this follow-up solidifies his talent. Blessed with a deadpan demeanor that would make Buster Keaton envious, the pretty and pretty tired Xiaofen works as a clerk in a law office, listening to an endless litany of complaints from philanderers, wife-beaters, factory owners (“Isn’t it enough that I pay them?”), and the assorted brokenhearted. But her day job is a mere respite from the minor failures and petty grievances of her spare time, to which her loser boyfriend and “concerned” mother (anxious to marry her off to various new-capitalist dullards) contribute the most irritants—that is, until the explosion of a nearby “model environmental factory” adds far more. With a trenchant script by longtime collaborator Peng Shan, Ying expands one woman’s personal dilemmas into a razor-sharp, frequently hilarious dissection of China’s rising misfortunes, especially as suffered by its “other half,” women.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Ying, Peng Shan. Photographed by Li Rongsheng. With Zeng Xiaofei, Deng Gang, Zhao Ke, Liu Lian. (110 mins, In Mandarin with English subtitles, Color, DVCam, From InD Blue, with thanks to Jonathan Hung)