Feng Shui

(China, 2012)
North American Premiere
117 minutes, DCP, in Mandarin with English subtitles
Directed by: Wang Jing
Starring: Yan Bingyan, Jiao Gang, Chen Gang, Zhao Qian

Every year NYAFF has a host of mainland Chinese dramas to choose from, and every year we try to find something truly special and unique to bring to you. This year, one film grabbed us by the throat, reached into our chests to grip our bleeding hearts and refused to let go. FENG SHUI is a hard-bitten kitchen sink drama set in the emergent new China of 20 years ago. Uncompromising, unsentimental, and unstoppable, it’s a women’s picture mixed in concrete, scrap metal and aged, weathered steel.

Men are all “dogfuckers” as far as Li Baoli (Yan Bingyan) is concerned. Her timid husband Xuewu is a rising union official whose promotion has landed them in a cozy new apartment in the big city where they can finally attain middle-class status, but in Baoli’s eyes everything’s already wrong. Their young son isn’t studying hard enough. Her elderly mother-in-law is an unwelcome guest. And Xuewu, though he’s working himself to the bone, doesn’t meet her needs as a husband. In Li Baoli’s world, nothing is ever good enough. Everyone is weak, no one is pulling their weight, and even when Xuewu starts sleeping on the couch, then asks her for a divorce, she still doesn’t see it coming when a single act changes their lives forever.

In the years to come, her friends will blame the apartment for her troubles, declaring that bad feng shui brought struggle and heartache. But Baoli knows superstitious talk only follows after things go bad. She has no time for tears or regret. She will make her fate or die trying.

Scarcely known outside of China for his sensitive social dramas, director Wang Jing and his cast were slated to appear at the Tokyo Film Festival for FENG SHUI’s international debut, until diplomatic tensions between China and Japan caused the film to be pulled. Defying political pressure and risking an international incident, they showed it anyway because it’s that unbelievably good. Over the course of a decade, the incredible Yan Bingyan shows us every imperceptible shift and scar on Baoli’s seemingly-impenetrable psychological armor, while Wang showcases simple moments of stillness in motion as we begin to understand the depth of her quiet, unceremonious rebirth. She was born to fight, born to carry the yoke for the next generation, scorning pity in the face of things we can never take back or change. But sometimes, just sometimes, even Li Baoli can dare to hope for a new start; even when, just like always, you have to get out and push.

Wednesday July 3, 8:00PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets