The Marriage Certificate- -
The wife of a prominent psychiatrist can't find her marriage certificate one day. This "jiehunzheng" is all important. Without it, the family officially has never existed, including the daughter. The couple go on a wild goose chase through the Chinese bureaucracy, meeting catch-22 all the way....they need a certificate to get a new one, etc. They even journey back to the People's Commune where they met, now the site of modern private enterprises where nobody even recalls the former occupants.
After a diversion into more mainstream psychological drama with TELL ME YOUR SECRET (Udine 2001), Mainland Chinese director Huang Jianxin returns to the realm of lightly satirical portraits of contemporary life with THE MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE.
Strongly cast, with Feng Gong and Lu Liping playing a couple whose marriage is thrown into chaos by a trifling piece of bureaucracy, pic lacks the tart edge of earlier works like SURVEILLANCE and STAND UP, DON’T BEND OVER. Set in “a well-known city in the north”, the film is narrated by the couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Xiaowen, as she writes her diary. Her mother, Xie Yuting, is an engineer, and her father, Gu Ming, is a psychiatrist in a hospital; comfortably though by no means extravagantly well off, the family seems a happy one. One day, Yuting’s factory announces it will be giving a free blanket to any staff member who’s been married more than 18 years, though applicants must submit their marriage certificate as proof. When Yuting can’t find theirs, her initial annoyance soon turns to paranoia as she starts to re-examine every aspect of her marital life. Phrases like “loss of status” and “illegal cohabitation” issue from her mouth, and attempts to trace the folks in the countryside who married them prove futile. Her husband suggests living apart. “From that day on, my family spiraled down into chaos,” notes Xiaowen, who finally runs away from home to shock her parents into repairing their marriage. Central idea could easily have turned into broad farce were it not for Huang’s realistically based direction and the fine perfs by two of China’s best actors, the glum-looking Feng and radiant Lu. Script never loses sight of the underlying tragedy of a happy marriage being destroyed by the country’s rigid bureaucracy, giving the comedy a bittersweet edge that’s beautifully played by the two thesps.
Thanks to Far East Film Festival