VIFF 2014: The Golden Era is a reverent but indulgent biopic

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      The Golden Era (Hong Kong)

      Ann Hui's dedicated and reverent efforts to recreate the life of writer Xiao Hong, who died at the age of 32 in 1942 and whose career was overshadowed by her male contemporaries, are evident in this sprawling biopic. Xiao Hong left behind an abusive father and an arranged marriage for a tumultuous life that included an unplanned pregnancy with an ex-lover, journeys to Hong Kong and Tokyo, years of correspondences (which contribute to the story), Japan's invasion of China, and her literary career that she began with a newspaper writer who became her lover. Characters portraying her friends and family recollect fill in the blanks between fragments of her life in direct-to-camera dialogue, repeatedly stalling narrative momentum. Although beautifully shot and admirable in its daring experimental narrative techniques, the film's three-hour length comes off as indulgent and Xiao Hong remains a character upstaged by her own story and context, rather than experienced as an individual.

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