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A film in bloom
(Chinadaily) Updated:2004-07-06 10:02

 

 

  It won the Best Jury Picture Award at the recent Shanghai International Film Festival, and since then there has been much talk about the opening of 'Jasmine Women.'

  For anyone who missed the screening of "Jasmine Women" at the recent Shanghai International Film Festival, all is not lost. In coming weeks, the film, which was shot entirely in Shanghai and has English subtitles, is about to officially open its city season.

  Hou Yong made his directing debut with "Jasmine," which almost didn't make it to the screen for the competition. Fortunately it did and ended up winning the Best Jury Picture Award. The movies brings together many Chinese stars, including Zhang Ziyi and Joan Chen, and the title actually encompasses the three female characters Mo, Li and Hua which together are directly translated to the Chinese word for "jasmine."

  "This is a movie that pays attention to women and successfully illustrates people's fates and emotions," comments Joanne Cheng, an award-winning Chinese-American documentary director from New York. "I can see the director's intention to make the story appeal to the audience and it works."

  Well-known for his work as a cinematographer, Hou's credits include "Hero," "Happy Times" and "The Road Home." Based on the novel "Women's Life" by Chinese writer Su Tong, "Jasmine" tells the story of one family's struggle to overcome its tragic history, as each daughter repeats the mistakes of her mother. Mo (Zhang Ziyi) is a 18-year-old girl raised by her single mother (Joan Chen) who makes a living running a photography studio. Mo's life changes dramatically after meeting Boss Meng (Jiang Wen) -- she becomes a star and falls pregnant. After giving birth to a girl, Li, Mo is soon abandoned and her career crumbles. Li grows up and wants something more for her life, so she marries a concrete factory worker Zou Jie (Lu Yi) and adopts a girl, Hua, after she discovers that she can not have children. But Li has doubts about the relationship her husband has with her adopted daughter and that eventually drives the man to suicide. Although she tries to break the cycle of her mother and grandmother, Hua is also betrayed by her husband and chooses a life as a single mother. First-time director Hou has set the film in the 1930s, 50s and 80s against the backdrop of an ever-changing Shanghai. Actress Zhang play three roles as the young Mo, Li and Hua, while Chen plays two as Mo's mother and the old Li. "When I read this novel 10 years ago, I was shocked by the unique beauty that arose out of the drama," says Hou.

  "I decided right then that I would make it into a movie." Hou notes that the three women are quite different from each other despite all experiencing tragic lives. "Mo is naive and pure and prone to getting hurt," he says. "She always lives in her dreams. Li, on the other hand, tries to design and plan her life, but it still leads to tragedy. Hua is the most confident woman of the three and she has many ideas. When her husband has an affair, she keeps calm and chooses an independent life. My favorite is Hua, an ideal woman in my mind with great strength." Scriptwriter Zhang Xian says, "The novel does have a sad and pessimistic tone. In the novel the three stories run parallel. We've made some changes to Hua's story so in the movie the trio are going forward one by one. The history behind the women is that of relying on a man for happiness, but Hua finally throws this idea away. She ends up believing a man is not the only element in a woman's life." "This is not an ordinary film because I like to take risks," says Hou. "I tried to remove local customs from the movie and make figures stand out. The houses and streets are not important. This story is timeless. "Man can be just a shadow in a woman's life, not the leading role. That's what I want to say in the movie," he adds. Zhang agrees: "We tried to wake up warm emotions and make women finally set themselves free from repeating the mistakes of the past."

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