Chen Mo and Meiting

Chen Mo, a young man fresh from the countryside who's scrambling to make a living selling flowers on the streets of Beijing, meets Meiting, a masseuse-hairdresser who, having repulsed the aggressive advances of her boss, has no place to live. She moves into his tiny apartment, and they forge a unique relationship, which grows increasingly tender and intimate. First-time director Liu Hao designed this ultra-low-budget independent feature (shot in 16-millimeter and blown up to 35-millimeter) as a chamber piece, focusing almost exclusively on his two leads and exploring the ways his handheld camera can animate the small space they call home. Neither character has a family—both are victims of the Cultural Revolution's policy of relocating urbanites to the countryside—so they decide to become something of a family themselves: on some days he plays daddy to her, on the others she plays mommy to him. Avoiding cuteness, Liu opts for an offbeat, penetrating analysis of creative relationship crafting, and his engrossing film stumbles only near the end, when it turns toward melodrama. In Mandarin with subtitles. 78 min.

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