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The Case (Xiangzi)
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Directed by
Wang Fen

From young actress-turned-director Wang Fen comes this offbeat tale of intrigue and suspense, set in Lijiang. Anyone who has experienced the tourist hell of this UNESCO-listed town may be surprised to see it quiet, atmospheric and free of hordes of people. Wang uses the old streets to lend a sense of claustrophobia to her tale.

A middle-aged couple run a guesthouse by the river, and one day the husband, Dashang (Wu Gang), spots a case floating by. Rather than the treasures he had hoped to find, the case contains body parts. As Dashang puzzles over how to dispose of his grisly find, an attractive young couple show up at the guesthouse, prompting feelings of longing, desire and suspicion.

Wang gives the film a twist by suggesting that it may all be a figment of Dashang's imagination, trapped as he is in an unhappy marriage and longing for escape. The film has a dreamlike quality, while also portraying the psychological world of a middle-aged man in contemporary China. But not everyone will enjoy the strange blend of comedy and suspense, the characters engaged in farcical goings-on while living in a mysterious and empty city, in which unexpected horrors hide around every corner.

(That's Beijing by Alice Wang September 30, 2007)

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