Gateway | Dragons & Tigers
It’s the summer of 2009 in the southern lakeside town of Hangzhou. It’s hot and 14-year-old Li Senlin is bored. Auntie Qiu, whom she hasn’t seen for years, suddenly makes a visit, and recounts a tale of a strange encounter on an abandoned island. Senlin roams her apartment in a white dress on roller skates, allowing her memory - or perhaps it’s her imagination - to roam.
In Senlin’s world, strange things keep happening. Their causes and effects are blurred, indirectly perceptible. Here are some puzzles: why are there two children named Senlin, a boy and a girl? Why is she also sometimes called Hongqi? What is her relationship to her aunt? Why does a murder happen next door?
Let the film gently guide you through these riddles as it seduces you with its pellucidly transparent visual style. Director Zhu Xin (a 21-year-old undergrad when he shot the film) knows exactly what he wants you to look at, and when he wants you to learn something about the gentle mysteries permeating this young girl’s life. The film is less a puzzle and more a garden of pleasures or delights, gifts of light, sounds, images, performances - gifts that only cinema this refined, precise, and pure can deliver.
— Shelly Kraicer