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A Chinese Take On Two Western Films -- About China

A Chinese film critic looks at how his country is portrayed in Mao's Last Dancer, an Australian movie, and Last Train Home, a recent Canadian documentary.

Ruoji Tang

Western filmmakers are increasingly interested in modern China as a subject. I saw two such examples over the weekend: Mao's Last Dancer, an Australian film based on the wildly popular memoirs of ballet dancer Li Cunxin; and The Last Train Home, a documentary by Canadian director Fan Lixin. Together, the films provide contrasting views of China that are worth considering.

Mao's Last Dancer, both in script and artistic direction, is a throwback to the feel-good inspiration films of the 1980s. The film weaves together scenes from Li Cunxin's childhood, his stay in Beijing, and his first year in the United States. Li is chosen from an impoverished village in rural Shandong to study ballet in Beijing. Predictably, he makes up in "heart" and "passion" what he initially lacks in technique. When the director of the Houston Ballet arrives in Beijing for a visit, he spots Li's potential and invites him to America.

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Mariateresa Fichele

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