Ann Hui’s biopic concerns subtlety and details over melodrama. This could also be seen as her personal statement as an artist going against the current.
Veteran Hong Kong director Ann Hui, known for her unconventional approach to genre and her humanist and political filmmaking, has crafted this thoughtful and ambitious biopic of early 20th century Chinese writer and proto-feminist Xiao Hong, with Tang Wei (Lust, Caution) bringing subtlety and strength to her performance as Xiao.
After a life of great adversity, Xiao died in 1942 in her early 30s. Her writing, largely concerned with social reform and the lives of ordinary women, is now celebrated as a pinnacle of modern Chinese literature.
By presenting multiple perspectives from Xiao’s contemporary intellectuals, and taking great care in delineating the historical milieu, Hui attempts to humanise Xiao as a young writer finding her literary voice.
With meticulous costume design adding to the sumptuous recreation of 1930s China, this fascinating period drama concluded the 2014 Venice International Film Festival, with Hui presiding over the festival’s Orizzonti Jury.