Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Shun Li and the Poet (2011) Open Road 2012
A Chinese woman living in Italy works as a seamstress to pay off the broker her brought her to the country and to save enough money to bring her son over. One day her boss tells her he is sending her to a coast town where she will be working behind the counter at a local cafe he just bought. One of her customers is a crusty old Slav, thirty years in Italy, who still hasn't completely assimilated. He's also recently widowed and his son worries about him. Around the bonding pair, we watch the lives of the other fishermen and people who cross through the harbor and the cafe.
Director Andrea Segre's eye as a documentary filmmaker greatly enhances the small moments of life and of the simply beauty of the Italian coast. This is a film that bristles with life for much of it's running time showing us the joy of friendship, of simple things like walking in water or seeing a new world for the first time. Its a feeling that is greatly enhanced by the wonderful cast especially by Tao Zhao as Shun Li and Rade Serbedzija as Bepi, the Poet of the title.
If there is a flaw in the film it's that in the final third of the film things get a tad dark as gossip forces the pair to be separated and the film drives to a too obvious conclusion. While it doesn't kill the film it does keep what is a great film in the first hour merely good in the end.
Reservations aside it's definitely worth your time and the effort to see this when the film screens Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Center.