Illegally resident in Beijing, Wang Guixiang (Liao) scratches a living hawking pirated VCDs until everything goes wrong: the cops confiscate her stock, her husband (Li) is imprisoned for assault and the neighbours do a bunk, leaving her literally holding their baby. Sent back to her country-town home by the authorities, she runs into a former boyfriend (Wei) who suggests that she'd make a good 'cry-woman' - a professional mourner who sings and wails for hire at funerals. Liu tried to set this up as a legal production, but when the China Film Bureau vetoed the script made it as a foreign-financed underground indie. The approach (non-pro cast, semi-improvised scenes, protracted wide-angle shots) and the small town setting make it very 'school of Jia Zhangke', and some narrative elisions seem more clumsy than inspired. But the central idea - a woman expresses her own pain only by performing at strangers' funerals - is a good one, and Liao's hard-as-nails performance as Guixiang is up there with Alia's in Ermo as an icon of female strength, will and resilience.
Cast and crew
Liu Bingjian, Deng Ye