In "Angels Wear White", Director Vivian Qu involves viewers in a riveting, multidimensional depiction of the aftermath of a case of abuse of two young girls. The story unfolds through our observation of two key characters. One is a victim, a child of divorced parents who chooses to go live with her father rather than her mother as she struggles to move on from the trauma of her assault.
An interweaving parallel story centres on our observation of a young worker in the hotel where the incident occurs. Her moral struggle involves attempts not to involve herself in any investigations due to her own precarious situation.
We also see other female characters, including the hotel front desk clerk and the victim's divorced mother struggle in their own way to make their way in a world filled with implicit and explicit male dominance and few easy choices. We in the audience cannot help but feel as though we are similarly implicated in the events portrayed.
At several points, Qu employs an ellipsis worthy of Robert Bresson. As in life, we are left to wonder what exactly has transpired, who has problems of their own, and who is trustworthy. Qu is astute in her choices of what not to show, including incidents and threats of sexual violence. Instead Qu masterfully involves the audience in unravelling the aftermath through the experiences of the victims' families, the seemingly morally ambivalent hotel staff, a stalwart female attorney, and some dubious police investigators. One also wonders if perhaps Bresson's "actor-model" technique was used with some of the younger actors, if not the complex, emotionally charged performances of the parents and attorney.
The backdrop to this story is a seaside resort town's statue of Marilyn Monroe forever frozen in Monroe's famous windblown skirt pose from "The Seven Year Itch". This symbolic imported Hollywood goddess ultimately acts as the lead character a third parallel narrative. The statue speaks silently and ironically to what Naomi Wolf called the "beauty myth" as it plays out in the lives of these girls and women.
An hour or a day or a week after viewing Angels Wear White, the story will live on in your mind. The subject matter is in no way restricted to the lives of people in a Chinese resort town. The viewer will know that girls and women face similar issues with different details in Des Moines, Delhi, Dakar, etc. Feminist themes that might be routinely targeted to a particular demographic in our Hollywood commercial cinema transcend those boundaries in the film. Qu's adept storytelling is at once feminist & humanist, realist & figurative, and chillingly universal.
Angels Wear White
Angels Wear White
In a small seaside town, two schoolgirls are assaulted by a middle-aged man in a motel. Mia, a teenager who was working on reception that night, is the only witness. For fear of losing her job, she says nothing. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Wen, one of the victims, finds that her troubles have only just begun. Trapped in a world that offers them no safety, Mia and Wen will have to find their own way out.
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September 04, 2018 at 08:56 PM