Combustible Celluloid
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With: Zhou Xun, Wu Jun, Cai Ming, Su Xiaoming, Zhao Chengshun, Jin Shuyuan, Wang Peiyi, Sun Jianong
Written by: Liao Yimei
Directed by: Li Shaohong
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Mandarin with English subtitles
Running Time: 90
Date: 04/23/2005

Stolen Life (2006)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Misery's Company

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I normally don't like this kind of soapy, high-strung melodrama in which people wind up trapped in bad relationships while things get worse and worse. Outside of Douglas Sirk, it's difficult to visually convey the type of obsession that would cause someone to shut his or her eyes to such misery. But I confess that, on Stolen Life, director Li Shaohong has done as fine a job as can be expected. Yan'ni (Zhou Xun, from the recent Perhaps Love and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress) is a small town girl who escapes an empty, provincial life by going to college. Even before she arrives she meets Muyu (Jun Wu) -- in a traffic accident no less. They are both wearing the same hat; it must be destiny. We watch helplessly as their relationship grows and the working class delivery boy Muyu drags down the promising student. Eventually she becomes pregnant and gets expelled. Finally, it's revealed that Muyu is actually a con artist who seduces women, impregnates them and sells the babies for profit. Stolen Life is based on a real incidents, and it's to director Li's credit that she tells the story as plainly and unobtrusively as possible, softening the blow and anticipating it by including Yan'ni's voiceover narration; we know she's going to suffer, but we also know she made it out alive. (Stolen Life is playing as part of the Global Lens series, stopping at various cities all over the U.S.)

DVD Details: First Run Features has released this film on DVD. Extras include a "discussion guide," or director's notes and biography, and facts about China.

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