Release year: 2010
Run time: 120 min
Film type: Documentary
Sporting a gown as stunning as a painting, a big white rose atop her head, and a pair of twenty-centimetre high heels, Madame Bilan de Linphel takes to the stage and sings in a husky voice to a dimly-lit bar. Tears mixed with black mascara drip from the corners of her eyes as she belts songs from 1940s diva Bai Guang to Bai School Beijing folk storyteller Yan Qiuxia. She accepts generous tips of hecklers and admirers, while her contempt for the arrogant women sitting beneath the stage remains unmasked. She stands somewhere between a longing to submerge herself into the warmth of the songs of yesterday and a wild exorcism performed through dance. Amidst the madness the stage belongs to her—the gorgeous, dignified, acrimonious, cowardly, malicious, self-interested, bashful, unfortunate, amorous, matriarchal and bull-headed Madame Bilan de Linphel! Tailor is a fast talker. He often goes to the city's gay venues – the parks and bathhouses– in search of stories, for a chance encounter, to flirt, to make love, and to eat. He says he was born to love men. In his eyes, his parents are unfortunate and his childhood was dull and lacked a sense of security. After growing up, Tailor funded his journey to Guangzhou on the meagre income he earned making and repairing clothes. He travelled to the city to realize his dream of becoming a highly sought-after "prostitute". Indeed, some of the men he met, whether it was in Beijing or Guangzhou, have left their mark upon him. Back then he was still young. A lapse of judgment left him infected with syphilis and in his despair began chanting the Heart Sutra. Day after day, through repetitive chanting he managed to forget the scripture and enter an intense meditative state where he found a sense of security.
Qiu Jiongjiong's experiences growing up have made him something of an eccentric in the art community: he began painting at age two and at age three he began performing local opera (his grandfather was a famous Sichuanese Opera performer). From a young age he dreamed of becoming an artist, and at 18 he left school to pursue this career. In 2007 he completed his first film, Moon Palace, a 100-minute film documenting his father's life.
The documentary technique of Madame is an exercise in minimalism, using the bare documentary style. Besides live performance footage, the film consists of unedited interviews, offering an insight into the complexity of Bilan de Linphel’s reality. The use of black and white adds to the minimalism, eliminating the ambiguity of color and leaving us in a monochrome world. In this way, the text and subject matter are tailor-made mirror images of each other. Madame Fan Qihui has two identities: the talkative tailor and the dissolute Bilan de Linphel. With a pop-infused flavour, Madame Bilan de Linphel-cum-Tailor laments the seemingly incongruous facets of her identity. In the darkness of the stage, the mournful Bilan de Linphel sings the sad story of the tailor’s life.