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Critics reviews
I Am Not Madame Bovary
Feng Xiaogang China, 2016
The film is powered by hints of humour and inevitable sorrow, while there are a few overlong passages and one particularly annoying scene that has been ripped directly from Liu Zhenyun’s source novel. Yet Fan and her male co-stars manage to maintain the sense of drama right until the end. The film leaves us to wonder whether Li will finally be understood by those in charge of her own country’s crooked legal system.
May 26, 2017
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Occasionally, the circular matte amplifies the pictorialism of the image, endowing it with a painterly quality that pulls the film away from any suggestion of social realism. The square frame, used predominantly for the scenes in Beijing, at times rhymes with vertical elements of the mise en scène and evokes a context of towering authority… Mostly, though, this flourish comes off merely as a distracting gimmick, a blight on the film’s searing satire.
April 28, 2017
It’s not necessary to insist on reading Bovary as a lightly disguised critique of China’s petitioner system. The film’s destabilizing power comes from its texture, its discourse, and its accumulation of detail. Feng’s laser-sharp analysis of the relationships between citizens and government power are all there, in the text (rather than the subtext) of the film. His analysis is subtle, acute, and scathing enough to activate the film’s critique.
March 24, 2017
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The movie starts as taut satirical farce, then dissipates its effect by working over the same situation relentlessly and with wearying pedantry. There are endless stagy scenes of anxious male bureaucrats explaining their predicament at length, occasionally putting hands to faces in dumbfounded despair; at one point, two even collide in a doorway. Lian often seems marginalized in the action, and remains somewhat opaque.
November 18, 2016
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The most intriguing part of I Am Not Madame Bovary comes from the unusual aspect ratios… It’s certainly painterly in its composition, with the round frame giving the image the quality of a storybook illustration, an impression emphasized by the introduction of drawings depicting the story of Pan Jinlian. But the specific applications of new aspect ratios in key moments are Feng’s true masterstrokes.
November 18, 2016
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There’s not an uninteresting or boring shot in “I Am Not Madame Bovary.” It’s a pleasure to look at the screen and to watch the artistry of the entire creative team. But there’s a forbidding quality to the entire enterprise. That circular frame is way too small to squeeze through.
November 18, 2016
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The story has real situational intrigue. Its heroine, Li Xuelian (Fan Bingbing), is seeking a divorce so she can claim a second apartment the Chinese government has decreed available to only single people. She is subsequently jilted by her husband. But Mr. Feng, who also directed the 2008 romantic comedy “If You Are the One,” a megablockbuster in his native land, muffs it with his labored approach.
November 17, 2016
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Feng, for some reason, shoots the entire movie in bizarrely constricted aspect ratios: Scenes in Beijing employ the Instagram square that Xavier Dolan used in Mommy, while scenes in Lian’s home province (the vast majority of the film) are circular, as if we’re seeing everything through the open door of Frodo Baggins’ house in the Shire. Presumably, this is meant to suggest styles of Chinese painting, but it’s mostly just a distraction that leaves roughly half of the frame unused.
November 16, 2016
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Lian’s ordeal is stifling, but the visuals are striking. It’s like an odd storybook you’d find in the attic and have trouble putting down — the more quixotic Lian’s journey becomes, the more you want her to see it through to the bitter end.
September 13, 2016
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