Recently Seen, Part 36 (February 2020)

clayton-12

Member: Rank 4
Tuya’s Marriage (Wang Quan’an, 2006) kicks off with Tuya on her camel out on the plains of Inner Mongolia, herding sheep. She comes across a chap lying comatose on the freezing ground, having come off a motorbike. With all the enthusiasm and sense of urgency of someone doing the dishes, she slings him across the camel and takes him home. Back there, she revives him by spitting large mouthfuls of liquor over his chest and performing a semi-CPR-style massage, then finds she needs to slap some sense into him, and slap hard, after he wakes and mistakes her for his wife. It’s a great introduction to the main character – it’s pretty clear that all the cultural stereotyping about demure and subservient oriental women can be thrown out the window, as this sure is one tough-as-nails no-nonsense woman.

She needs to be tough, too. After her husband, whom she loves dearly, suffered an accident that has left him crippled, almost all the burden of supporting the family falls on her shoulders. Her neighbour (the hapless dude who came off the motorbike) is always willing to lend a helping hand, but despite what is revealed to actually be a warm mateship between the two, Tuya steadfastly refuses to be indebted to anyone.

However, another accident forces her to realise that there’s a limit to what she’s physically capable of, and she comes up with a plan – divorce her husband and remarry someone, but only on the proviso that the new husband will accept the old husband as part of the family.

I read a number of reviews after I watched this, and there’s a lot of focus in the discussion on the ethnographical aspects. Granted, there’s a lot of very foreign cultural practices on display, an undercurrent of the traditional life of Mongolian sheep herders being usurped by modern society, and some quite magnificent cinematography. But I think the story being told has a strong parallel with the conflict that some women face in contemporary society – that expectation placed on women that they can, and should, have it all; a career, independence, success in her own right, but then to also have a family and be a supportive housewife. I think this film has much more in common with something like the recent Send Me to the Clouds than with other ethnographically driven films like Tulpan or The Story of the Weeping Camel.

If all that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you should at least watch it for Yu Nan – she’s fricken awesome in this. Swaddled up like an oval shaped matryoska doll, with an acid tongue and barely cracking a smile, she still manages to exude this almost sexy warmth just through non-verbal mannerisms – it’s a subtle, complex portrayal of a subtle, complex character. I’ve never seen her in anything else, but I’m told everything she did back then was this good (not so sure about more recent stuff like The Expendables 2 – maybe she’s another name for @sitenoise to add to his list!)
 
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sitenoise

Member: Rank 5
maybe she’s another name for @sitenoise to add to his list!)
That's what I'm talking about :) The Aughts! She was in the super superb 2007 "In Love We Trust" right after Tuya. Things were exploding back then. Now whadda we got?

I think I've pulled Tuya into my "I'm adding this to the top tier queue and I'm finally going to watch it" Folder several times but it never happened. Maybe I'll remedy that. I'm sensitive to reviews where I detect some inner need to shout out "this was freakin awesome" that goes beyond the constraints of a regular review (like when ebo jumped out of his pants for The Treacherous).

Nice review, btw
 

clayton-12

Member: Rank 4
She was in the super superb 2007 "In Love We Trust"
Thanks for the recommendation. Purely by coincidence, I came across this title yesterday afternoon in my yet-to-see European arthouse pile without even realising what it was.

From Wang Xiaoshuai, I've only ever seen Red Amnesia. I was impressed with the way Wang had constructed his film with a lot of the trappings and techniques of a thriller/horror movie. There was a kind of disconnect between the form and the substance of the film, but I thought that disconnect worked really well - as if the past ghosts of the cultural revolution were haunting the melodrama of the everyday present life.
 
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