The Story of Qiu Ju ★★★½


Any film that revolves the plot around a guy getting kicked in the nuts=me laughing my ass off on the inside. Most of this film is built on absurdity—the repeated journeys back and forth to higher systems of authority, all that exploit people that don't understand how the legal system work. Would have enjoyed more if I wasn't feeling burnt out on art house master shot (there's only one close-up in the film, which is Gong Li's face that—wait for it—is of course a freeze frame (!) for the final shot). But that's unfair to judge Zhang on that so we'll leave it there.

Gonna skip to my qualm here, because the strengths are quite obvious to anyone who watches it. My big concern is if this was an American film, I can't help but feel like there'd be a lot of critics who would call the film poverty exploitation ala Beasts of the S. Wild. Prestige director plus prestige actress who uglies herself by wearing a fat suit and no make up, showing how village people in China don't understand the legal system and value "justice" in old honorable ways that the system doesn't all had me occasionally coiling in my seat a bit. Perhaps a bit too "Noble Savage" in a lot of ways...However, can't find anyone to corroborate my point (not even Jonathan Rosenbaum), so I'll leave it there and won't make much of it.

Film's strengths are in the details: Qui tries to give a painting to a bureaucrat as a special token and we later see two other bureaucrats walking by with their own paintings, candid conversations between the men w/r/t what they care about, all the exchanges of money. "An enjoyable romp!" as art-house Peter Travers might write.