cinetopia film festival review: I am not madame bovary

Written by Tony Fragale


Courtesy of Cinetopia Film Festival program

Courtesy of Cinetopia Film Festival program

Adapted from Liu Zhenyun’s novel I Am Not Pan Jinlian, the film isn’t so much a straight adaptation of the Flaubert classic, but rather a more touching local story about women and their social standing in modern Chinese society. Li Xuelian and her husband Qin Yuhe plan a fake divorce to get a second apartment, but things don’t go as planned when Qin abandons Li. Enraged by this, Li decides to dedicate the rest of her life to suing anybody in the Chinese government to get her divorce annulled.


The film is separated into three parts that are all signified by the aspect ratio of the movie. The first part is displayed to the audience within a smaller circle in the middle. This part of the movie lays out a lot of the groundwork and history behind the main storyline. The second part of the movie is shown as a rectangle in the middle of the screen. This part includes much of the further ongoing plot of Madame Bovary suing the Chinese Government for 10 years straight. The final part of the movie returns back to the circle, in which everything is seemingly wrapped up.


As a whole, this movie is successfully comedic. Bumbling men in the government keep shooting themselves in the foot trying to stop this woman from suing them year after year, and honestly, the film works very well. The movie plays with these comedic themes perfectly, and it really is a joy to watch.


With that being said, I can understand how this film might not be for everyone, and I will strongly leave that to its immense runtime of over two hours. The humor can really dry up when many of the bits are used over and over again, but sticking with it till the end is well worth the wrap up.


I Am Not Madame Bovary was a very fun film for reasons that I would have never expected it to be. It had very good humor, and a refreshingly interesting storyline that I could not get enough of.


Featured at the 2017 Cinetopia Film Festival in Ann Arbor and Detroit, MI. The festival took place June 1st - 11th and featured “the best films from the world’s best film festivals.”

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