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Thirteen Princess Trees

Poster for the movie "Thirteen Princess Trees"

Thirteen Princess Trees (2007)

102 min - Drama - 23 March 2007
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The film follows several disaffected youth in the fictional Thirteen Princess High School in Chengdu. Feng, the film's protagonist, is a short-haired tomboy who has a love affair with the jock, Taotao. With the arrival of Bao, a student from Beijing, Feng finds herself gravitating to the new presence.

Director:  Lü Yue

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Storyline

The film follows several disaffected youth in the fictional Thirteen Princess High School in Chengdu. Feng, the film's protagonist, is a short-haired tomboy who has a love affair with the jock, Taotao. With the arrival of Bao, a student from Beijing, Feng finds herself gravitating to the new presence.


Collections: Lü Yue

Genres: Drama

Details

Official Website: 
Country:   China
Release Date:  23 March 2007

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:  1 h 42 min

We have a number of “coming of age” films from China this year: it seems to be the theme of the moment in China’s film industry, which is undergoing its own extended evolution towards maturity.

Thirteen Princess Trees is an extraordinary example: sure to be one of the best Chinese movies of 2007 whenever it is released domestically.

Director Lu Yue brings a vibrant energy and special sensitivity to all of the wide variety of genres he takes on, from the indie improvisations of Mr. Zhao (1998) to the romantic nostalgia of The Foliage (2004). Thirteen Princess Trees is a youth film that takes its adolescents — students at Princess Tree High School in Chengdu, Sichuan on the verge of graduation — utterly seriously.

Its heroine, He Feng (Liu Xin) is a young woman whose intensity spills over into rage and unexpected passion. Her boyfriend Taotao (Duan Bowen) incarnates easy athletic cool. Taotao and He Feng protects nervous, diffident Ali, who hides a keen businesslike intelligence behind a facade of cowardice. The class intellectual, sharp-penned Eva, possesses a subtle seductiveness that belies her handicap (a false leg). Responsible preternaturally mature “little woman”Jojo (Wang Jing) has complicated feelings for her best friend He Feng bubbling just beneath the service. And newcomer Jingsheng (Zhao Mengqiao) is a pudgy, aggressive misfit, who defies authority and the structure of teenage classroom society with a dangerous, archaically noble courage.

He Feng’s ferocity (and dangerous preoccupation with knives) may come from her family background: an absent mother and a brutally abusive (though surprisingly emotionally complex) father unmoor her. Her initial response to what everyone perceives as Jingsheng’s bullying is ferocious. But that’s just what he wants. When he turns his oddly charismatic charm on her, an unlikely alliance forms as, together, they set about challenging the adult, authoritative control that keeps their class in check.

Lu mixes theses characters in volatile, exciting, unpredictable ways. He Feng and Taotao’s classical high-school romance has unresolved tensions bubbling beneath the surface. Jingsheng’s absolutely untempered rebelliousness is the match that lights the fuse under all the film’s relationships. It’s as if every teenager growing into adulthood is a crisis waiting to happen, a volatile blend of personalities, attitudes, bravado, desire, and immaturity which is as dangerous as it is alluring.

The film somehow manages to balance a supercharged,slightly surreal atmosphere with a simultaneous dedication to emotional veracity and deep characterization is all too rare in this genre. No stereotypes here: watch the backgrounds of Lu’s wide shots and you’ll find most of these characters visible, present, reacting in subtle, vividly realistic ways to whatever drama the narrative is foregrounding at the moment. As the drama escalates, and the stakes increase, the film never departs from its intimate preoccupation with and dedication to its three dimentional characters.

He Feng, through her various changes, and increasingly nerve-wracking experiences, never ceases to be a fascinating character. Surrounded by fictional and realistic men: handsome Taotao, dangerous Jingsheng, a magical Arab figure who haunts her, a haplessly confused teacher, a crumbling paternal authority figure. But she remains independent and female: electric, out of control, brazen and compassionate. This rebel edge and hero’s selflessness, projecting from a core of pain and unacknowledged longing, are all captured by young actress Liu Xin, whose impressive performance lies at the core of this exceptional film.

Thanks to Far East Film Festival