I AM NOT MADAME BOVARY. (2016) DIRECTED BY FENG XIAOGANG. BASED ON WO BUSHI PAN JINLIAN BY LIU XHENYUN. STARRING FAN BINGBING. NARRATED BY FENG XIAOGANG.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I'm in an unusual position with this beautifully-shot Chinese film, in that I loved it and I empathised with its main character, a married woman called Lian. On the other hand, I didn't agree with how she spent a good ten years of her life. In fact, I feel like she wasted them. But let's go back to the beginning, which is nearly always a great place to start, don't you think...?
Li Xuelian, known in the film as Lian, is a not-very-well-off village woman living in modern-day China. In order to secure their dream apartment, she and her husband Qin obtain what Lian thinks is a fake divorce. Their plan is to remarry and come together again in the new flat once it's been secured. Can you see where this is going...?
Things don't go according to plan at all for Lian. For one thing, the divorce she thinks is fake turns out to be very real indeed. Her sleazebag of a husband moves a new woman into the lovely new apartment in Lian's place and refuses to remarry Lian. In other words, he chooses to remain divorced from Lian, thereby reneging on his initial promise.
As if this wasn't bad enough, and in Lian's eyes it's absolutely catastrophic, when she takes her sneaky hubby to task he accuses her of having had adulterous affairs during their marriage. Even worse, he calls her Pan Jinlian, a woman from ancient Chinese literature who was somewhat loose of morals, shall we say, and a known adulteress. This is, like, the ultimate insult.
Lian refutes this accusation hotly. She is neither Pan Jinlian, the patron goddess of brothels and prostitutes, nor the Madame Bovary of the film's title. Emma Bovary was the central character in French author Gustave Flaubert's debut (and best-known) novel, MADAME BOVARY. She was bored and lonely as the wife of country doctor Charles Bovary and comforted herself with adulterous affairs.
Lian is having none of Qin's nonsense. She goes to the courts to try and get some sort of justice for herself. The courts aren't helpful, so year after year she petitions them again and again, even going so far as to travel to Beijing once a year to pester the high-up and important (male) delegates of something which I think is called the National Party Conference.
These higher-ups aren't thrilled to see Lian either, year in, year out, always complaining about how she wants justice for herself. This is where I kind of decided that Lian was wasting her life, always harking back to the past, getting a bad name for herself as that crazy lady who goes to Beijing every year to petition the courts about a ten-year-old case.
After all, she was still a young woman, she owned her own little restaurant and a cute chef called Datou was interested in dating her. Why prolong the agony of endlessly petitioning her case when she could have had a nice new hubby and a nice little shared business to boot? But then something happens that more or less makes the decision for her. Where does the distraught Lian go from here...?
As well as being a marvellously engaging emotional and domestic drama, this is a story about the little guy (in this case, Lian) going up against the bigger guy (the somewhat complicated Chinese legal system) in a sort of David Versus Goliath situation.
There's an official involved in Lian's case who continually stresses the importance of attending to the smallest of details, even when- or especially when- you're dealing with a big important weighty matter. When you watch the film for yourselves (and by the way, it's in cinemas from May 26th 2017), you'll see the significance of his words and how they relate to Lian's case.
The director has rather mischievously decided not to film his movie in the typical widescreen format we're used to. Rather, for scenes set in Lian's hometown, we're viewing the action through a circle shaped like a ship's porthole. For the Beijing scenes, this changes to a rectangular, vertical scroll kind of shape.
It's visually stunning to be viewing the magnificent scenes of green countryside, water, bridges and the endless rain through these shapes. It makes it feel like you're looking at a series of gorgeous Oriental paintings. The director obviously has a lot of imagination and a decisive artistic vision of what he wanted his finished product to look like.
There might well be nine million bicycles in Beijing but the ways in which a man can jerk a woman around apparently puts this in the ha'penny place. This is an Irish way of saying that the number of ways in which a man can jerk a woman around is a much higher number than a piddly nine million, haha.
In I AM NOT MADAME BOVARY, you'll see at least one of these ways superbly acted out for you on the big screen, and also the way in which the woman, Lian, deals with the situation. I might not necessarily agree with her chosen course of action but there's no denying her balls and her gumption. These she has in spades. Enjoy the film, movie lovers.SODA PICTURES/THUNDERBIRD RELEASING.
In cinemas May 26th.
In cinemas May 26th.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
You can contact Sandra at: