The Monkey Kid

Snippets of Paris Reviews

The Monkey Kid was released in France by Les Films du Paradoxe on June 18, 1997

Neither lampoon nor precise historical construction, the film is a beautiful, intimate, autobiographical and sensitive chronicle of childhood.Yves Alion Impact Quotidien June 18, 1997


With equal modesty and sensitivity, Xiao-Yen Wang represents the affectionate relations between parents and children. The mother's return (like that of the father later) doesn't give rise to any flood of emotions. It is through this use of half-tones — not to be confused with coldness — that the film succeeds in being moving. Gilles Le Morvan Humanité June 19, 1997


 

All the moments of innocence, play and laughter reverberate with extra intensity because they were plucked by Shi-Wei and her friends from this prison enclosing an entire country. Le Parisien June 19, 1997


All the film's content seems to show the enormous subversive potential of childhood embodied in Shi-Wei, which dilutes the brainwashing to which she's subjected. The Monkey Kid is, in short, above all a presentation of the mischief, the agility and the ingenuity of childhood in the face of a system that seeks to constrain and punish… The occasional returns home by the mother (played by the radiant Fang Shu) are even more charged with meaning: it is there that the profound message of the film emerges. This adored mother — beautiful, intelligent — is in fact the source of all wisdom and, above all, the initiator of true liberty, far removed from the stereotypical definitions of the "little red book." Xiao-Yen Wang creates here a magnificent portrait of a woman and scenes filled with great poetic emotion which would almost suffice to justify the whole film. Caroline Gallien Tin Tuo June, 1997

The political realities of Maoism is the essence that emerges in the course of this delicious chronicle. Didier Péron Libération June 18, 1997


In this very beautiful Chinese film you'll understand that children, better than adults, manage to escape from tyranny. Many sequences show us children who play "cat," jump rope with an elastic band, leap from a cupboard, purposely bicycle in the rain. By and by these games appear to us like ceremonies, mysterious and absurd. This poetic fantasy escapes the authoritarian adults. In other moments of the film one sees Shi-Wei and her chums fascinated by childbirth on the part of their school teacher. They discover the mysteries of sex, of giving birth. For them these realities are so strong that nothing else counts in their eyes. These children, will they keep this capacity to slip away? Catherine Firmin-Didot L'Herbo des Juniors June 27, 1997


A fascinating testimony on a recent backwater of Chinese history. Olivier de Bruyn L'Evenement June 19, 1997


Class conflict, indoctrination, hatred for learning —The Monkey Kid approaches all these themes in the manner of a documentary without, however, going too far. As though through the eyes of a child… Laurent Cotillon Ciné Live June 1997


 

A fine and at the same time frightening portrait of a little Red Guard of the revolution, where Mao's texts serve as chants for dancing or skipping-rope. Florence Castelnau-Mendel L'Express June 19-25, 1997


A poignant autobiographical account, moving and funny, filmed with great moderation. Claude Baignières Le Figaro June 18, 1997


The Little Red Book and songs of the Chairman's glory are the daily fare of this mischievous little girl, whose very fine and paradoxically joyous portrait (partly autobiographical) was filmed in quasi-secrecy by the director, who has lived in the United States since 1985. Laure-Anne Elkabbach Premiere July, 1997


 

The Monkey Kid is a most seductive film because its heroine is absolutely irresistible. It's as simple as that. The little Shi-Wei does not look a bit like a chimpanzee — as the title might suggest — but is, on the contrary, incarnated by a kid with a miraculous cinematic genius. A completely round head, large eyes open to the world, two tufted pigtails, and an invaluable liveliness. On all levels this double of the director (who admits that her film is in large part autobiographical) makes each scene fascinating by her very presence… A work full of freshness. Olivier Nicklaus Les Inrockuptibles June 18-24, 1997


The charm of the film stems from the delicate metaphors, as when the little girls amuse themselves by hollowing out, in the first snow of winter, words of writing. A subtle idea that — of their imprint of liberty on the cold of a natural given… It is even more praiseworthy that, between playful escape but also neo-realism and denunciation, the film turned out so luminous and happy. Too happy? If The Monkey Kid succeeds in charming Western audiences, it is without dissimulation of the harshness of history. Françoise Audé Positif July-August, 1997


 

Paradoxically, the Chinese filmmaker (whose first film this is) uses her extremely modest budget to real advantage in conveying the stubbornness with which, as a child, one sets out to be happy — even if happiness is abolished by law. Chantal Blandin La Vie du Rail July 2, 1997


The Monkey Kid, Xiao-Yen Wang's very beautiful film, has received praise wherever it's been shown… One of the great qualities of the film is to make one understand without heavy emphasis the kind of regime under which Shi-Wei lives. Thus a whole class opens their Little Red Book at the same time or performs a dance to the glory of Mao with a slightly forced enthusiasm. And, moreover, the young ten year-old heroine generates a roguish charm that pervades the whole film. One comes out of the film with euphoria, even though the actual making of the film was not a pleasure trip. Olivier Nicklaus La Croix June 24, 1997


An enchanting chronicle, partly autobiographical. La Tribune June 18, 1997


The film's director, who has drawn on her own memories, has not sought to make a film about the Cultural Revolution by showing the horrors experienced. Everything happens through the eyes of Shi-Wei, in the form of a chronicle of everyday life, and one follows with pleasure the 400 blows of this mischievous little girl. A charming story about a past period which would be good to show to our children. Yveline Chabot and Virginie Gaucher Pariscope June 18, 1997


The girl is adorable and the film, presented two years ago at Cannes in the official section Un Certain Regard and winner the following year of the grand prize at the Aubervilliers Film Festival, can be seen by the whole family. It is enchanting. Les Echos June 23, 1997


Loaded with dividends, this first full length film of director Xiao-Yen Wang is not a film about the Cultural Revolution, but the story of a little girl. And the Cultural Revolution? It shows through her own and unique perspective. Promising. MAG June 16, 1997


The Monkey Kid, a day-to-day account of childhood, is inspired by the real life story of the director, Xiao-Yen Wang. Shi-Wei — that's herself at that age, at that time — a headstrong, rebellious child. This first full-length film, autobiographical, poignant and comical, had been made by Xiao-Yen Wang with restraint and moderation. The filmmaker does not vent her spleen, she does not complain. She has dignity in her outlook. The "Cultural Revolution" has changed the course of her destiny and also that of her parents. There is no hatred, just the statement of fact. And plenty of moments of small happiness. For instance, when her mother, a teacher, returns temporarily from "the countryside." Behind the apartment's double-locks they listen to the music of Carmen on an old phonograph. A forbidden pleasure which gives spice to life. Emmanuèle Frois Figaroscope June 18, 1997


If one wants to know just how far Mao's propaganda went, here is the opportunity to find out. Jean-Paul Grousset Le Canard Enchaine June 18, 1997


The film of Xiao-Yen Wang is full of mischief and humor, and here and there some moments of cruelty, that hit the bull's eye. The director tells her own story in Western style and skates often on the absurdity of the situations. Pascal Mérigeau Le Nouvel Observateur June 19-25, 1997


 

In 1970, in the middle of the Cultural Revolution, a little girl's life in a Beijing neighborhood. All around her — the chaos and upheavals of one of the blackest and reddest periods of Chinese history. Her parents, intellectuals, and her brother are in the countryside in a camp for re-education. It rests with the Monkey Kid, her sister and all the people of the neighborhood to try to help her lead a normal life for a girl her age, who at any rate is not aware of the great social and cultural horrors of this absurd and tragic time. Eternal childhood in the face of cataclysms it's not asked for. With, in addition, the smile of innocence. The filmmaker, Xiao-Yen Wang, 37, who left China in 1985 to conclude her film studies in the United States, has made her film "unofficially" in the neighborhood where she lived. Restored in every detail from Mao button to educational slogans, childhood's autobiographical take on hell. A film as witness. Alice Hubel L'Officiel des Spectacles June 18-24, 1997


A beautiful narrative, moving and funny, inspired by the childhood of the director. Danielle Attali Le Journal du Dimanche June 22, 1997

The Monkey Kid French Reviews: Elle, Le Monde