I am not Madame Bovary (Wo bu shi pan jinlian)

Feng Xiaogang

China, 2016 / 139 min / Mandarin OV with English subt. / Dramatic Comedy

A woman takes on the Chinese legal system. A relentless satire of Chinese corruption and hypocrisy.

Li Xuelian and her husband Qin Yuhe stage a fake divorce to secure a second apartment in the city reserved for single people. Qin remarries six months later - as agreed - but to a different woman. Furious, Li files a lawsuit with the county court but loses the case. Refusing to accept the court's findings, Li appeals to the chief justice, the county chief, and the mayor, but fails at every turn. After Qin publicly accuses Li of being a "promiscuous woman", Li is driven back to the courts to redeem her reputation. She makes her way from county to city, enduring one trial after another, until she decides to make her appeal in far-off Beijing.


“I am not Madame Bovary” may be political, but it is shaped like a satire, where the authorities and government officials are portrayed in all their incompetence and ordinary people with all their faults. Director Feng Xiaogang has chosen an unorthodox and beautiful visual style for his film. The scenes from rural China take place in a circular shape, while the richer reality in Beijing is framed in a perfect square.

Sun 05/03 20:30 Cinémathèque OV with EN subt. Public
Tue 07/03 18:30 Ciné Utopia OV with EN subt. Public

“I Am Not Madame Bovary” is a chilling exposé of a political system, and entire country, geared towards servicing its own state employees rather than the mass populace. Not to mention highlighting the yawning wealth divide that still separates millions of Chinese citizens from those supposedly committed to making their lives better.” James March,, 01/11/2016

 “(…) the film will be talked about for the spectacularly unorthodox shape of many of its shots: the frame is sometimes a circle, sometimes a square. And Feng has framed and shot his scenes in ways that ingeniously exploit these aspect ratios. There are layers of meaning to all of this that are worth working out on your own. All in all it’s a surprising and daring (in more ways than one) work from China’s best popular filmmaker.” Shelly Kraice, Cinemascope, 09/2016

“This sly comic parable, eccentrically tricked out in reductive screen formats (before finally “going wide”), is the tale of an “ant” becoming an “elephant,” one that fittingly strings a long series of small anecdotal sequences into a near-epic narrative arc. (..) The men who mostly dog her are portrayed by a starry lineup while Bingbing’s Li is a mulishly stubborn figure whose simplicity continually manages to flummox the more powerful — they can’t quite believe she means just what she says, or that her nerve so far exceeds her social station. Usually seen in distancing long or medium shots, this character is an Everywoman in both the proletarian and superheroic sense. Actor and director (who first worked together on her 2003 breakout “Cell Phone”) seamlessly unify a tonal range that stretches from farcical absurdism to pathos. Her gender rendering her even more frightening to an all-male roster of suits, outwardly nondescript Li is a triumphant cipher: The nobody who, at least briefly, succeeds in making a slew of Big Somebodies tremble in their well-shined shoes.

 “The film “I Am Not Madame Bovary” has a sublime visual elegance, telling its story much of the time with wondrous pictorial effects in a round frame that feels like a magnifying glass. This moral tale with no promise of a happy ending should ride on Fang’s stardom to reach Chinese audiences globally.” David D’Arcy, Screendaily, 10/09/2016

  • Golden Shell (Best Film), San Sebastian Film Festival, 2016 (Spain)
  • Silver Shell (Best Actress), San Sebastian Film Festival, 2016 (Spain)
  • FIPRESCI Special Presentations, Toronto International Film Festival, 2016 (Canada)
  • Golden Horse Award (Best Actor and Audience Choice Award), Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards, 2016 (China)
Cast & Credits
Fan Bingbing, Guo Tao, Jiayi Zhang, Da Peng
An adaptation of Liu Zhenyun’s 2012 novel “I Am Not Pan Jinian”
Pan Luo
Terry Tu, William Chang Suk Ping
Han Zhong
Du Wei
Beijing Skywheel Entertainment Co., Beijing Sparkle Roll International Culture Industry, Huayi Brothers Media.
Wild Bunch

Feng Xiaogang (1958) is a film director, screenwriter and actor and is known as one of Asia's most commercially successful directors, with a filmography mainly consisting of comedies and period dramas. He began earning international fame with titles including “A World Without Thieves” (2004) and “Aftershock” (2010). He has also won Best Director three times at China's prestigious Hundred Flowers Awards. 

  • 2016 - I Am Not Madame Bovary
  • 2013 - Empire of War
  • 2012 - Back to 1942
  • 2010 - Aftershock
  • 2008 - If You Are The One
  • 2007 - Assembly
  • 2006 - The Banquet
  • 2004 - A World Without Thieves
  • 2003 - Cell Phone
  • 2001 - Big Shot’s Funeral
  • 1994 - Love Forever Lost