The Women From the Lake of Scented Souls | Chicago Reader

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Xie Fei, the “fourth generation” mainland Chinese director who taught filmmaking to both Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine) and Tian Zhuangzhuang (The Blue Kite), wrote and directed this 1993 melodrama, based on a novel by Zhou Daxin, about a middle-aged woman who runs a highly successful sesame-oil business in a northern village but can't escape the cycle of abuse that started when she was sold into marriage at a young age. When she buys a wife for her dysfunctional only son—who appears to be epileptic and winds up beating his bride—she's beaten by her own husband. The drama here is often pointed, and Xie's direction is sensitive. But the sometimes opaque and unidiomatic subtitling (e.g., “Human life is a long way to go”) doesn't help; alternately titled Woman Sesame Oil Maker and The Women of the Lake of Scented Souls. In Mandarin with subtitles. 105 min.

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