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Directed by Tianyu Ma

Cast: Hua Zhong, Yezhou Zheng

Official Selection, 2021 International Film Festival Rotterdam

Blue bottles of Bombay Sapphire, an aquarium, and countless LED lights——the decor of an overstimulated boredom——adorn Jie’s Boston apartment, where his friend Xia is crashing all summer. Xia seems almost swaddled by the apartment’s hyper saturated colors as she hides from her “real life” (At college in New York? At home in Beijing?) elsewhere.

Xia says she’s in Boston to reconnect with an ex-boyfriend. But while she makes a wish to see him on every pack of cigarettes she smokes, and sends him a couple of open-ended texts, it’s unclear if her efforts will ever extend past these magical methods. In the meantime, she and Jie reminisce about Beijing, make sporadic efforts to work at their largely remote jobs, and shuffle through lovers and experiences like they are doomscrolling on their phones.

200 CIGARETTES FROM NOW’s candy-colored pop malaise is reminiscent of early-2000s romantics like Wong Kar Wai and Hou Hsiao-Hsien. But the filmmaker, Tianyu Ma, brings a dorm-room intimacy and directness to the aesthetic, keeping Xia’s raw emotional world front and center. And perhaps because both the director and the star are newcomers, even when the film is melancholy, there’s an irrepressible feeling of invention and playfulness in every scene. An electrifying debut.

—Lev Kalman

Preceded By

chinese cabbage flowers in yīngélìshì

Directed by Yifan Xu

An audio-visual blossom of a short, in which the accidental discovery of dried cabbage flowers in Mel Y. Chen’s Animacies incites a meditation on becoming-processes and in-between spaces, through the eyes of an international student.

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