Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl

Xiu Xiu is primarily the result of the determination of Joan Chen. For those of you who have followed her career, Chen seems to have been MIA lately. Audiences will probably remember her best for her roles in The Last Emperor and as Josie Packard in Twin Peaks. After those, she went through a string of bad b-movie roles. She returns now as director, producer, and writer of Xiu Xiu, based on a short novella. During the Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution, many youth were 'sent-down' to various parts of China for 'special training,' which usually meant farming or some other rurual wonder, and then left there. Xiu Xiu (played by Lu Lu - stop your laughing) is one of these youth.

She believes that she is learning for the glory of Chairman Mao, and is initially has a haughty, condescending attitude towards Lao Jin (Lopsang), the nomad who is to teach her horse herding. Lao is a quiet, introspective nomad, and Xiu Xiu is a headstrong city girl who cannot wait to be reassigned once her 6 month tenure is up. She doesn't understand why she is out there, and there is nothing she would rather do than leave. Six months pass, and though Lao realizes she is not going back, Xiu Xiu doesn't. Soon, other men begin to realize this, and they begin to take advantage of her for sex. Each one promises that he is important, and that a word from him with the right people will get her back to the city.

Every ad for this movie blares "BANNED IN CHINA FOR SEXUAL AND POLITICAL CONTENT." Chen filmed the movie without the permission of the Chinese government, and they were not too happy about that. The production was constantly on the move, many times picking actors from locals. Sadly, this is the biggest thing going for the movie. The story moves along at a laid back pace towards is very conventional and predictable ending. You also have to wonder what is going through Lao's head during the entire movie. Clearly, he is very fond of Xiu Xiu and treats her like the daughter he never had, but he does little as a succession of men have their way with her. There are emotional moments, but they are so few and far between that you never care enough about the characters to be moved.

Normally, being an animal and naked all the time, I am not much of a stickler for nudity. But wait a minute - Lu Lu was 15 at the time this was filmed. Huh? Then, in the credits, you see that she had a body double. Whew. But WHY? After watching many movies, you come to the realization that much nudity in movies is unnecessary, but is it really necessary to watch a man rape a teenage girl? These scenes would have been just as shocking (or tedious) without the peek-a-boo shots.

But production wise, this is a fine first film for Chen. She did a good job as director and producer, but could have done a better job picking a script. Hopefully, as she directs more movies (and we are looking forward to her future efforts) she will do a better job. It would also be nice to see Lu Lu and Lopsang in other movies.

Mongoose rates it: Okay
1 hour, 40 minutes, Mandarin with English subtitles, Rated R for sexuality and nudity.

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