A China Film Assist, Mao Yan Workshop production. (International sales: China Film Assist, Beijing.) Produced by Geng Ling, Zhu Wen. Executive producer, Ju Anqi.
Directed, written, edited by Zhu Wen. Reviewed at Hawaii Film Festival (competing), Oct. 17, 2010. Running time: 77 MIN.
With: Mao Yan, Thomas Rohdewald, Jin Zi, Ye Feng, Gou Zi.
There's not much in contempo Chinese cinema to compare with "Thomas Mao," an eccentric piece of whimsy about the friendship between an awkward European traveler and a short-tempered innkeeper in the backwaters of Inner Mongolia. Packing martial-arts fantasies and visions of an alien invasion into the dreamlike narrative, mainland helmer Zhu Wen has produced his most entertaining and technically polished feature to date. This offbeat charmer with a wonderful final twist deserves local arthouse exposure, and is a good fit for fests and specialized tube outlets. Domestic release is pending.