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Zhang Yuan’s Little Red Flowers uses the cuteness factor in its chronicle of an obstreperous four-year-old’s progress in a Mao-era Beijing kindergarten. There is no physical violence or brainwashing (although every other part of the infant anatomy is rigorously inspected, especially when the guilty perpetrator of a fart is tracked down), and even severe Miss Li, rumoured to be a child-eating monster, cracks a human smile.
But this film avoids the saccharine: its unexpected, solitary, downbeat ending leaves one hopeful because, following this semi-autobiography, the rebellious Chinese writer Wang Shuo obviously lived to tell the tale, and because of Dong Bowen’s irrepressible but mercifully unwinsome little mutineer.
A professional, if illegal, graffitist, a tubby aspirant football referee who dresses in uniform complete with shorts and whistle, a lawyer who casually abandons career and home and drifts away . . . Amiable dreamers people Dagur Kári’s Dark Horse, a vision of Denmark’s Bohemian underside, gently funny and unjudgmental.
White Noise: The Light postulates the ability to foretell death, and the terrible results of attempting to interfere (death will have his due...).
The movie is gore-free, and solemn rather than screaming, with an intriguingly sinister urban atmosphere that does Vancouver’s tourist trade no favours.