BEIJING, March. 2-- The audience of invited guests gasped and laughed from almost the first scene at yesterday's premiere of one of the boldest domestic films yet shown in China.|
Perpetual Motion, from the director Ning Ying, has caused a stir even before it opens in China's most cosmopolitan cities this week, with critics decrying its portrayal of assertive woman who treat men as sex objects.
Such a film would have been inconceivable in China only five years ago. The film, featuring four women from Beijing's educated elite, is being seen as Sex and the City, Chinese-style. The only men are two waiters who deliver lunch at the stylish home of Niuniu, a publisher, on the lunar New Year's Eve.
Niuniu, played by the publisher Hong Huang, has gathered three friends for dinner to try to find out which is having an affair with her absent husband. Liu Sola, a musician and author, plays the artist Lala. Ping Yanni, a successful businesswoman, takes the role of property developer Madame Ye. Li Qinqin, an actress, plays an attractive, ditsy entertainer.
Their frank conversations about men and sex come as a shock in conservative China, where women are falling back into more traditional patterns of behaviour.
The film makes clear that all four have endured the chaos of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution. Ning decided to make a film that portrays real women to escape the perception of women as"vases of flowers."
The film was approved with only minor changes. Ning would have preferred audiences to see an unedited version£˘ the one shown at the Venice and Toronto film festivals£˘ but realised that to gain approval was no mean achievement.
Some of the most explicit language describing sex has been cut. Also changed was a moment when the women, wearing high heels and lipstick, play an old recording of a revolutionary song.
Instead of"We are the successors of Communism," audiences in China will hear"We love Beijing's Tiananmen."
Ning's women have survived two decades of upheaval and are not cowed by society's demands that women be young and beautiful."We have gone through the experiences of 200 years in just 20. So I wanted to make a film that records what is happening now in people's lives in China. A film about real women."
Debate is already raging about what has been dubbed China's first"feminist" film. Ning said:"Men need to have some courage to see this film. They think it's all right for them to talk openly about sex but they don't like to see women doing the same."
The distributor recognised that a film showing four women doing little more than talk for 90 minutes might not be a box-office hit among audiences who adore martial arts movies and Hollywood action blockbusters. Instead of producing the 300 copies usual for a commercial film in China, they have made only 15.