Turning her back on her small country theatre roots, Wu Ke-xi‘s Nina Wu dreams of being a major actress. Although, the reality of life in Taiwan is a very different one. Getting by being an online cam girl and scoring occasional bit parts in adverts, it seems as though a real opportunity has finally come in the 70s espionage film The Romance of Spies. However, will this be the ticket to a new life or one that will cost her dearly? Let’s find out…
... trades in the deep cuts and humiliations that many women still endure in pursuit of a career.
Tackling exploitation within the movie business head-on, director Midi Z‘s psychological drama, Nina Wu is both a brutal and disarming look at the seamier side of show business. Where women are often seen as commodities, the film starts slowly, it’s beautiful cinematography seducing both you and Nina with the dream of hope. Yet running counter to that is the central performance of Wu Ke-xi as Nina. Permanently holding onto a melancholia that just won’t shift, you can tell in Ke-xi‘s eyes that every compromise is coming with an escalating cost.
On the many occasions when she is asked for “no emotions involved, just pose for the camera”, Nina is dying on the inside, as if holding her breath for a kind of success she can trust. However, as the movie later flashes backwards and forwards through time, we see glimpses of a memory that Nina is trying to suffocate.
As such, Midi Z‘s latest film is an uncomfortable mystery that directly critiques the #MeToo casting-couch culture. Unlike Takeshi Miike’s Audition, Nina Wu isn’t an intentionally horrific movie but instead an essential drama that trades in the deep cuts and humiliations that many women still endure in pursuit of a career. By keeping you permanently on the edge of your seat, Wu Ke-xi‘s incredible performance is the abiding memory that will keep you to glued to the movie’s shocking outcome which will leave you feeling powerless to intervene.
Powerful, provocative and, in many parts, as difficult to watch as Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible, Nina Wu isn’t entertainment but an unflinching look at the terrifying levels of sexism that still roam unchecked today.