JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Dada's Dance (Director: Zhang Yuan) - January 30, 2009

Dada's Dance

4 4
92 min.

Reviewed at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival
Dancing up a mom

Voyeurs of all persuasions will seriously enjoy Zhang Yuan’s latest examination of the dark and light side of human existence.

Once her minders have left for work, Dada (Li Xinyun is radiant) loves to dance all around the house. Nearby neighbour Zhoa (Li Xiaofeng’s smile will flutter hearts) loves to watch. When finally confronted, he tells the truth: “I didn’t peep, I looked at you.” And so a romance is born.

Dada’s mother (Ke Gai) has an attentive male companion who is a frequent bedmate. “Uncle” Chen (Lanhui Wu, properly despicable) has the hots for both women. Repulsed by that notion, Dada teases the greasy pervert until he exacts revenge by telling his petulant fantasy that she’s adopted.

With just two strikes (and Zhoa in tow), Dada’s out to her rural hometown to track down her biological parent (Dad never enters into the picture).

From there, Yuan plays with his characters and the audience. A single compliment coincidentally quashes the expected love scene. Mom No. 1 seems like a dream come true until an aberration of another kind sends Dada dashing away in disgust. (Hilariously, and a deft touch of balance, while the “reunion” is in progress, Zhoa and the maid have their own pas de deux, played with a garden hose, on the magnificent grounds.

Ma No.2, fanciful as she is, runs an establishment where her lingerie-sporting “daughters” take care of any son, brother or husband so long as their supply of yuan holds out.

Eventually, the Dance of Death finds its place onto a narrow balcony ledge, yet the crushed skull elicits no tears, only serving to drive the young, not-yet-lovers further apart than ever—another travesty of non-court justice.

Weeks later, their reunion starts with fisticuffs with no chance at all for makeup sex. Curiously, their love is suddenly stronger than before.

At various times, both Dada and Zhoa dance solo for each other—and they’re good! One marvellous question lingers (which will take another installment to answer) and rolls nicely into the credits: Will life’s choreographer provide the steps for the beautiful couple to move lovingly into each other’s arms and merge into an artistic whole? JWR

A one-sided interview The Stronger
Lia Williams
U.K. 2007 10 min
Four and one-half stars

August Strindberg’s Christmas Eve confrontation between the wife (Clare Higgins) and the mistress (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) in an otherwise deserted, swank hotel bar gets a truly sensational treatment from Williams.

With stellar assists via cinematographer David Higgs and editor Chris Gill, the one-sided dialogue bursts onto the screen in glorious black-and-white infused with a carefully modulated sense of drama that, like a Bruckner symphony movement, takes its time getting to the point, but when it does, everyone will agree that it was well worth the wait.

Composer Steve Isles’ tribal drums—bookending the short story’s start and finish—are nothing less than perfect for what transpires on either side. JWR

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Director - Zhang Yuan
Music - Andrea Guerra
Cinematographer - Zhang Jian
Sound - Shi Baofeng
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Sundance Film Festival
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