“Teeth of Love” marks the debut of director Zhuang Yuxin, a noted television screenwriter and professor at the Beijing Film Academy. Although the subject of his first film may sound depressingly familiar, following a character’s development against the backdrop of economic and social change in China, it actually turns out to be quite different, making few concessions to the conventions of the genre and constantly confounding expectations. The film has enjoyed some success at festivals, playing at the 2007 Deauville Asian Film Festival in France and winning the award for Best Feature at the 14th Beijing Student Film Festival.
The film is basically split into three parts following different stages in the life of a woman called Qian Yehong (actress Yan Bingyan), beginning with her tomboy teenage years in 1970s Beijing, during which she bullies and beats other students and breaks the heart of a poor boy who expresses affection for her. The drama then shifts to her early twenties, with her working as a doctor in a hospital, when she has an affair with a married man. After this ends badly she returns to Beijing to work in an abattoir and drifts into a marriage with a shy man called Wei Yingqiu (Li Naiwen), the relative of an old classmate. Sadly, although the couple have a child, Qian remains unfulfilled, and it eventually becomes clear that yet more grief is on the cards.
Pleasingly, although “Teeth of Love” paints a convincing picture of a certain time and place, it is first and foremost a personal journey, with Qian’s gradual maturation driving the story rather than merely serving as a thinly veiled backdrop for the usual metaphors and themes of political upheaval and social change as is so often the case with this kind of film. This said, like its protagonist, the film is strangely distant and emotionally aloof throughout, and never really makes any attempt to explain why she behaves in such an obtuse manner or to truly get under her skin – this does leave the proceedings rather less moving than they might have been, though at least director Zhuang avoids the kind of melodrama or forced catharsis which might have been feared. The film is certainly engaging, as Qian is an interesting character despite all her faults, and though it is hard to like her, the viewer gradually comes to feel a certain sympathy for her and even to care about her fate.
It does make for pretty bleak viewing, with most of her development as a woman coming about as the result of a series of harsh lessons, often due to mistakes of her own making. Indeed, all of the relationships in the film are awkward and tend to end in agony and injury both emotional and physical. Pain is very much at the heart of the film, with Qian’s troubled back serving as a symbol of her misery and as a forewarning of imminent strife. Though this does give the film a refreshing unconventional feel and is certainly preferable to tacky romance, it can be quite hard going, piling on the trauma through childhood tragedies to an excruciating though strangely intimate abortion scene.
Zhuang directs with a naturalistic, unobtrusive style, and covers the years well, giving the real sense of a personal journey. He utilises a palette of muted colours which make for a gloomy atmosphere, punctuated only by the occasional startling fade to red which usually marks a particularly harrowing episode. This is underlined further by the somewhat sinister soundtrack, and the proceedings are quite tense throughout, with Qian always seeming to be on the verge of another emotional disaster.
This, along with its interesting choice of protagonist helps set “Teeth of Love” apart from other character study dramas, and gives it a distinctive, if depressing air. By eschewing the usual cheap sentiments and fairy tale resolutions, director Zhuang succeeds in painting a fascinating and engrossing portrait of a troubled young woman which marks him as a talent worth watching.
review written by James Mudge
COMMENTS & AWARDS :
2008 - BEST FILM AWARD at the Festival of ANNONAY
2008 - ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL of PARIS: Official Selection
2007 - DEAUVILLE ASIAN IFF: Official Competition
PRINCIPAL CAST :
TECHNICAL DETAILS :
Title : TEETH OF LOVE
Original title : TEETH OF LOVE
Director(s) : Zhuang YUXIN
Director of photography : Lin JU
Sound editor : XU Dong & BAO FENG Shi
Editor(s) : Cheng XIAOXING
Screenwriter(s) : Zhuang YUXIN
Composer(s) : LIu SIJUN
Length : 111 mn
Format : Film
Gender : Drama
Language spoken : Mandarin
Subtitled in : English
Country of Origin : China
Year of Production : 2007
yesterday in the Green Bamboo Park, today at the Lake of Jade, tomorrow at the Temple of Heaven, there are dozens of retired men and women who meet to exchange personal ads, often secretly, in search of a husband for their daughter or a wife for their son – a long, difficult and exhausting quest that reveals much of the disarray about how Chinese society is evolving.
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Produced by Point du Jour & ARTE
directed by Cheng Xiaoxing
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Small town in South china. More than 10000 artists work on master piece painting's copy industry : Van gogh, Picasso, Da Vinci... The most reproduced is "Sunflowers" of Van Gogh.
Van Gogh did not sell none of his "Sunflowers" in his lifetime. But a century later, "Sunflowers" are making living hundreds of Chinese artists.
With humor and lightness, the film takes us to the amazing backstages of these "Sunflowers" made in China.
Beyond the anecdotal aspect, the film surveys the "copy-culture" of China.
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Productions : On Line Productions / RFO
Depuis des siècles, la Chine a fondé son système socio-politique et moral sur les valeurs du Confucianisme. Or, les effets de l’ouverture économique il y a 30 ans, ébranlent les bases de ce système. L’adoption du mode de vie occidental, la politique de l’ « enfant unique », l’essor de l’immobilier, l’émigration des paysans vers les villes, la position des femmes font partie d’une multitude d’évènements venus fragiliser le corps social tout entier.
Comment cette situation a-t-elle commencé et comment évoluera-t-elle à l'avenir ? Voilà ce que nous nous proposons d'explorer dans ce film.