August 09, 2021
Chinese film-maker Zheng Lu Xinyuan makes her debut with a dreamlike distillation of a young woman’s alienation from family and friends
The Cloud in Her Room review – exquisite slow-burn study of a quarter-life crisis
“A few days ago, I met someone.” A woman makes the confession matter-of-factly to her on-off boyfriend as they try to find somewhere for dinner. At that moment the camera pans up to the sky, and when it fades back to the street, the couple have gone, vanished into thin air. It’s not the only time that Chinese film-maker Zheng Lu Xinyuan, making her feature debut, cuts away from characters at precisely the moment another director would go in for a close-up; it may drive you crackers.
This film is pure slow-burn arthouse, shot in black and white, the format dominated by flashbacks – perfect for a film that drifts along on scraps and dreamlike fragments. It follows aimless 22-year-old Muzi (Jin Jing) who is back in her hometown, Hangzhou, visiting her folks for Chinese new year. Nothing much happens. In an early scene a gay friend asks Muzi to have a baby for him; his parents are desperate for a grandchild. Her boyfriend, a sensitive, shaggy-haired photographer (Zhou Chen), shows up unexpectedly from Beijing. Muzi is also flirting with a local bar owner (Dong Kangning) who clearly rates himself. Her parents have been divorced for years. She smokes cigarettes with her dad (Ye Hongming), an artist and jazz musician. A couple of scenes hint at emotional tensions with her mum (Dan Liu), a woman with the glamour and poise of a 1950s movie star; after a drunken karaoke session, her mum is sick on the street. When Muzi leans down to help, mum roughly shoves her away.
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