Perfect Life

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Additional Venice Film Festival reviews

Venice Film Festival

VENICE – Two women, two lives, but possibly a single destiny is what "Perfect Lives" ("Wanmei Shenhuo") is all about, swinging as it does from fact to fiction. Writer-director Emily Tang, who moved from China to Hong Kong after her "Conjugation," a bitter look at Tiananmen Square, randomly explores the tension between the real and the unreal. Unfortunately, it does not turn out to be experimental enough, and may find it difficult to grab even a festival slot.

Li (Yao Qianyu) lives a hard life and dreams of running away from the town where she was raised. Jenny (Jenny Tse) dares not dream any more. Both wind up in China's Shenzhen, living parallel lives. The double narrative is set in a city, where 10 million people out of the total 12 million are migrants, having left villages and towns in search of jobs in the '80s and '90s, a period that saw the country's transformation from a socialist economy to a rapidly growing market force.

One significant reason why this work – where one half talks about Jenny, a real woman who actually lives in Shenzhen, and the other half about fictional Li – fails to make the grade is we never quite understand the connection between the two. There is but one fleeting moment when they pass each other on a street. Could the fact that both have chosen to make the city their home be the connecting point?

The film is a telling comment on the evils of rural-to-urban migration. Shenzhen with its close proximity to Hong Kong, serves as an example. Jenny is a single mother of two children, who decides to make Shenzhen her home after she divorces her Hong Kong-based husband. Li is deliriously happy to see her dreary existence end when a crippled man asks her to deliver a painting in Shenzhen.

The title perhaps points to the illusion of what Shenzhen is, and Tang subtly underlines the uncertainties and imperfections of the lives the women have chosen.

Production company: Xstream Pictures Cast: Yao Qianyu and Jenny Tse. Director/screenwriter: Emily Tang. Producer: Chow Keung. Director of photography: Lai Yiu Fai. Art director: Lam Ching. Editor: Chow Keung. Sales agent: Celluloid Dreams. No rating, 97 minutes.

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