Dada's Dance (China) (Variety, Screen Daily Reviews)

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Dada's Dance (China) (Variety, Screen Daily Reviews)

Postby dleedlee » Sat Oct 04, 2008 11:56 am

"Dada's Dance"

A Beijing Good-Tidings Cultural Development Co., Beijing Zhang Yuan Cultural Studio production. (International sales: Zhang Yuan Cultural Studio, Beijing.) Produced by Zhang Yuan, Dong Ping, Chen Wen. Executive producers, Allen Chan, Zhang Ziquan. Co-producers, Liu Xinhua, Chen Keji, Jiang Xueming. Directed by Zhang Yuan. Screenplay, Jia Lisha, Li Xiaofeng, Li Xinyun; story, Zhang.

With: Li Xinyun, Li Xiaofeng, Gai Ke, Wu Lanhui, Liu Yi, Xu Wanqiu, Mo Xiaotian, Wang Aihua, Zhao Tao, Zhao Xuehan, Ding Fan, Lu Jianzhong, Liu Aibao, Wang Xiumei, Hu Qiaoying, Chen Qiang, Chen Yuzheng, Uncle Du, Song Liping, Zhao Gang.
(Mandarin dialogue)

A striking screen presence is revealed in young actress Li Xinyun in Chinese helmer Zhang Yuan's "Dada's Dance," but third-act script problems prevent the quirky love story from realizing its opening potential. Flag this one from the maverick Zhang as a notch down from his best work ("Seventeen Years," "Little Red Flowers"), with most potential on the fest circuit and in Chinese film weeks.

Li, 24, made a notable impression -- under her birth name Li Xiaofeng -- as the cute younger teacher in '50s-set school-kid allegory "Flowers." In "Dada," under her new name Li Xinyun, she effects a remarkable transformation as the mixed-up, unwitting temptress of the pic's title who's secretly worshipped by a young neighbor. But though the camera clearly loves the thesp, the character of Dada finally remains elusive at a deeper psychological level.

Li also takes a script credit along with her male co-star, whose name is the same in its Romanized version (though different in Chinese characters) as her original one -- Li Xiaofeng.

It's a hot day in an unidentified city in central China -- actually Wuhan -- where young Zhao Ye (Li Xiaofeng) spies on Dada (Li Xinyun) as she languidly wakes up, brushes her teeth and absentmindedly dances for her own pleasure. As Dada dresses in shorts and tank-top and goes to work at a local pool hall, Zhang Jian's observational camera and the full, saturated colors rapidly evoke an average summer's day in modern urban China.

Dada knows Zhao holds a torch for her but gives him a hard time on the street. Later, after teasingly fooling around in the river with Zhao, Dada goes back to his place to dry her hair and clothes but still leaves him hanging.

Beneath her flirtatious front, the 20-year-old Dada hides a mass of issues. As she confides to her best girlfriend Coco (Liu Yi), a fortune teller said she may be infertile. She also lives with her divorced mother (Gai Ke), who's dating the lecherous middle-aged Chen Jun (Wu Lanhui). When Dada rejects Chen's advances, he hits back by claiming her mom isn't her biological mother, prompting Dada to set out on a journey with the devoted Zhao to find her birth parent.

Second act, set in a pretty rural town, neatly moves the main characters away from home base into a world where neither has any real emotional bearings. A meeting with a woman (Wang Aihua), whom Dada believes is her real mom, has a strange, disconnected feeling -- underlined by Andrea Guerra's ethereal music -- that's paralleled by Zhao's own sense of dislocation, as Dada first comes on to him in a hotel room and then rejects him.

Back in the big city, after getting drunk at Coco's wedding, Dada loses control, setting in motion a train of events that see her and Zhao going on the run.

Jerky development during these later reels, and sudden plot lacunae, hint at problems in the script, which loses its early natural flow and leaves too many questions unresolved for the characters to be truly involving. Dada's changing moods are partly signaled in her costume changes (from casual duds to smart black), but like the main characters' psychology this is never fully thought through.

With her big eyes and coffee-colored voice, Li Xinyun is never less than watchable. As her young admirer, Li Xiaofeng is OK but not given much background of his own. Gai is good as Dada's caring mom, trying to make the best of a difficult situation.

Though pic has a different look to the highly controlled one of "Flowers," overall tech package is fine, led by Zhang's evocative lensing and Guerra's atmospheric score (frets, plus strings like a disembodied voice).

Camera (color), Zhang Jian; editors, Wu Yixiang, Jacopo Quadri; music, Andrea Guerra; song, Gabriella Ferri; art director, Pang Chao; costumes, Liu Lili; sound (Dolby Digital), Marzia Bulli; sound designer, Shi Baofeng; associate producers, Alex Jia, Wang Yi, Zhao Chao; assistant director, Li Songlin. Reviewed at Beijing Screenings, Sept. 25, 2008. (Also in Pusan Film Festival -- Gala Presentation.) Running time: 90 MIN.
Last edited by dleedlee on Sun Oct 05, 2008 2:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby dleedlee » Sun Oct 05, 2008 2:12 pm

Da Da's Dance

Dir. Zhang Yuan. China. 2008. 92 mins.

Da Da's Dance, directed by Zhang Yuan from his own idea, feels incomplete. The film seems to head in one direction, takes flight in another, and winds up looking for ballast in the beauty of its elusive central character.

Shot by Zhang Jian in crisp, evocative colour in an un-named Central China location, Da Da's Dance hits the tail end of this year's festival circuit where it will find an audience in fans of Zhang's considerable body of work, but probably won't be embraced in the same way as his previous successes such as Little Red Flowers or Seventeen Years. Theatrical prospects seem dim.

Li Xinyun, who plays the titular Da Da, is a beauty reminiscent of Shu Qi and certainly this production is in her thrall.

As Da Da, she's vulnerable yet provocative, dressing skimpily in front of her mother's lecherous boyfriend. A neighbour (Li Xiaofeng) also spies on her as she dances the salsa (music by Andrea Guerra is an unexpected treat). He, like Da Da, is aimless and unhappy domestically, with his father's young partner expecting a baby.

A set-to at home with the despised boyfriend result in him telling Da Da she's adopted, and she hits the road with Xiaofeng to find her real mother. But it becomes increasingly muddled as to whether this is her real intent. Scenes of Da Da seeking out her mother are tantalising but, like her relationship with Xiaofeng, unconsummated.

It is somewhat confusing when reference is suddenly made to Da Da having been born in 1988: up to now, she has seemed to portray a confused, pouty teenager. But any darker motivation isn't given a name, and she skips out of reach even as she occupies every frame.

Back at home, the film judders towards melodrama, with Xiaofeng having to flee the authorities and Da Da engaging in self-destructive behaviour, including an inadvertently comical drunken scene.

One cannot help but feel that at some point, there must have been more to Da Da's Dance. The gaps in the story point to possible post-production problems, but there's also no denying that Zhang is in thrall to his leading lady, who first appeared in Little Red Flowers and is certainly a presence to watch out for in future.

Production companies

Beijing Century Tood-Tidings Cultural Development Company

Zhang Yuan Cultural Studio

International sales

Zhang Yuan Cultural Studio


Zhang Yuan

Dong Ping

Chen Wen


Jia Lisha

Li Xiaofeng

From a story by

Zhang Yuan


Zhang Jian

Production design

Huang Ziming


Quadri Jacopo

Main cast

Li Xinyun

Li Xiaofeng

Wu Lanhui

Gai Ke ... ryID=41232
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