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No. 7 Cherry Lane. 2019. Hong Kong/China. Directed by Yonfan. In Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese and French; English subtitles. 125 min.
Winner of Best Screenplay at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, Yonfan’s No. 7 Cherry Lane is a glorious achievement in animation, an erotic fever dream set in Hong Kong’s “Little Shanghai” neighborhood of North Point during the anti-colonial riots of the 1960s, about the forbidden love triangle between a tutor of English, a divorcée who has fled Taiwan’s White Terror regime, and her almost ethereally beautiful daughter. Praised by critics as “a work of exquisite nostalgic when life imitates art” (BBC) and “a delirium, beguilingly kitsch evocation of late 1960s Hong-Kong” (Variety), Yonfan’s first animated feature is a slyly seductive homage to cinema (All about Eve, Belladonna of Sadness, and the films of Simone Signoret and Wong Kar-wai), literature (Proust, Jane Eyre, the classic Qing Dynasty novel Dream of the Red Chamber), and the power of art to provoke memory, desire, and revolt. Featuring an all-star voice ensemble including Sylvia Chang, Zhao Wei, Alex Lam, and Ann Hui (as well as the directors Tian Zhuangzhuang and Fruit Chan), No. 7 Cherry Lane is told through a unique animation process of converting 3D character renderings into thousands of 2D colored pencil drawings on rice paper that—whirlwind turn by whirlwind turn—evoke woodcuts, anime, scroll painting, and the deco decadence of an Erté illustration. Yonfan observes, “No. 7 Cherry Lane is a story of love in desperation with all the contradictory ingredients: in and out, high and low, vice and virtue, war and peace, beauty and the beast, east and west, unorthodox and classical, spiritual and physical...all of these are merged into thousands of hand drawn images that nourish the whole film. It is my first attempt at animation because only through this form of art can my desolation of splendor be delivered.”
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