Renowned Chinese director Feng Xiaogang's latest film, I Am Not Madame Bovary, has won several awards at the San Sebastian, Toronto and Taipei Golden Horse film festivals.
Despite these accolades, the film has received mixed reviews from audiences. Some have praised the film for its satirical take on male-dominated society and political problems in China, while others have criticized the storyline as being absolutely absurd.
The film, which stars Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, currently holds a 6.9/10 on popular Chinese media review site Douban.
If you plan to see the film so you can judge it for yourself, some background information may help you understand it better.
Who is Pan Jinlian?
Literally translated, the Chinese name of the film is actually "I am not Pan Jinlian." Pan is a famous fictional beauty who appeared in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) novel Outlaws of the Marsh. The character is famous for having an affair with the handsome merchant Ximen Qing and murdering her husband Wu Dalang. The character's story is depicted in further detail in the erotic Ming Dynasty novel The Plum in the Golden Vase, in which she is written as a lascivious and coquettish woman.
如果将影片名用英语直译，应该为"I am not Pan Jinlian"。那么，潘金莲究竟是谁？事实上，潘金莲是中国四大名著之一《水浒传》中的一位美女，其时代背景为明朝（1368-1644）。在书中，潘金莲和一位名叫西门庆的英俊商人有染，并在后来杀死了自己的丈夫武大郎。这部分情节在明朝小说《金瓶梅》中有更加详细的展开和论述，在该书中潘金莲被描写成一个风情万种的荡妇。
In China, Pan is often regarded as a symbol of a pretty and dissolute woman who violates traditional morals.
In the film, Fan Bingbing's character Li Xuelian is from a small village. In order to get a home her husband's company only gives to single employees, she and her husband decided to get a "fake divorce." However, soon after the divorce her husband gets married to another woman and moves into the second home they bought. Feeling betrayed, Li turns to the courts in hopes of getting her divorce overturned so she can then divorce her ex-husband once again. However, she runs into considerable trouble when taking her case to the police, the mayor and the head of the county.
Trying to defend himself, her husband calls her a "Pan Jinlian," telling everyone that she was not a virgin when they got married.
In order to clear her name and get justice, Li goes to Beijing to bring her case to the higher levels of government.
The topic of "fake divorces" is actually a very real issue in China.
As housing prices continue to rise, regulations concerning the number of houses a family can own have increased.
This has led to many issues. For instance, when rumors that down payments for a second home in Shanghai began circulating in September, the number of couples who filed for divorce was so high that the local civil affairs bureau had to shut down for a day.
Since most people outside of China are unfamiliar with the character of Pan Jinlian, the translators decided to find an equivalent character in Western literature for the English name of the film. They ended up settling on Madame Bovary.
因为许多外国人并不知道谁是潘金莲，所以译者在翻译名字的时候便找了一个在西方文化中和潘金莲角色对应的人物，就是后来所看到的" Madame Bovary"（译为《包法利夫人》）。
Madame Bovary is the title of French writer Gustave Flaubert's masterpiece novel. Emma Bovary, who lives in a small town in France and is the wife of a doctor, has several affairs as she tries to escape from a life of banality.
The novel, published in 1857, was once regarded as pornographic because it involved content that violated the moral and religious ethics of the time. However, it is now regarded as a masterpiece of literary realism.
Emma Bovary and Pan Jinlian share many similarities. Both represent the life of women who went beyond the rules of their time. They also both reflect the male-dominated society of the period.