Xiu Xiu: The Sent-down Girl

on May 07, 1999 by Ed Scheid
   "Xiu Xiu" is the extremely assured directorial debut of actress Joan Chen ("The Last Emperor"). The film, based on a story by Yan Geling, who co-wrote the screenplay with Chen, is set in the mid-'70s during the last days of the Cultural Revolution in China. Xiu Xiu (Lu Lu) is one of the many Chinese youths "sent down" to the country from her city home. She is supposed to spend six months learning horse herding and then return with honors. Her only companion is Lao Jin (Lopsang), a solitary Tibetan herder.
   Chen gives her film a superb sense of detail and insight into the undercurrents of the period. What makes Chen's achievement even more remarkable is that she shot the film on location in China without the knowledge of Chinese officials.
   She brings out both the natural beauty and the isolation of the setting. Chen is equally adept with the actors. Lopsang gives an exceptional performance as Lao Jin. His silent face shows his growing love for Xiu Xiu and his painful realization that she will never respond to his affection. Lu Lu gives the spoiled Xiu Xiu a genuine poignancy as she realizes she's been abandoned by the authorities and desperately tries to return home. Starring Lu Lu and Lopsang. Directed by Joan Chen. Written by Yan Geling and Joan Chen. Produced by Joan Chen and Alice Chan. A Stratosphere release. Drama. Mandarin-language; subtitled. Rated R for strong sexual content. Running time: 100 min
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