It took about five years for the director Shengwei Zhou to make his stunning feature length stop-motion movie “She”, that shows the class and gender struggle in a world made of clothing garments. It takes a proper concentration to catch up with a story that is deeply critical of the neo-liberal thinking.
The very metaphor of a female shoe trying to break out from its household prison hidden behind thick layers of buttoned up male shirts and jackets, is both witty and bold, coming from a director deeply rooted in a male-dominated society that as much as it pretends to be communist, bares the weight of its cheap, export industry with people slaving in factories or sweatshops for peanuts. Everything we touch nowadays, from the clothing items to souvenirs allegedly crafted in the country they are sold, is made in China and its price is someone’s sweat and tears. This brutal environment is represented through a clear connection between societal values of China and the bone-breaking industrial machinery in which the differences between men and women grow even stronger. That’s why placing the unequally treated sexes in the tobacco industry of all places gains even more on the significance by its traditional image of masculinity. And here, where we don’t expect it, we find a reference to Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory with clocks of deformed shapes sliding down the factory walls. But what exactly happens to the memory and regarding to what?
The film opens with the sound of buzzing insects whose hectic movements turn into waves of blue and green colours, spiraling above the budding (white sock) flowers and lined up jackets, jumpers and shirts that stand for the residential homes. It is difficult to break lose from that thick layer of fabric, and when the lafy shoe finally does it, she has to protect herself by changing its looks. And yet, the question is what the red stiletto squeezed into its new, body form – a man’s ´truly stand for – a trance-gender person or a woman disguised as a man in order to get a job. Or maybe a revenge to designers who like to torture women’s feet. Some issues treated in the film are too complicated to be spotted right away, because there is simply too much happening. What we do understand is that the stiletto goes through a number of unpleasant, and at times sadistic situations.
Alongside the impressive animation that involved 60.000 photographs in the making process, the sound department (chapeau to Han Ruida) gives the film a particularly memorable touch, setting the tune to the narrative. There is also the unforgettable score by Yuan Sihan, the same guy who composed the original music for Bohua Tangt’s “The Country of Summer Insects” (2013) and Bai Zhou’s “Esher’s World” (2010).
There are frankly many quite obvious insinuations, and even clichés used in “She”, such as cherries spit out by the female shoe, standing for the unpopular, but widely used term “to pop a cherry”. The fruit is seductive and sweet, and a form of Eve’s gift of apple to Adam. Also, drinking with bosses brings success, and danger is represented as a “male” dressed in leather jacket spiked with studs.
A swifter editing would have been a blessing, and honestly speaking, despite all the magic of Zhou’s animation skills, this could have been a really nice short or a semishot movie