Just as high tea was being served at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze restaurant in midtown’s London Hotel last Wednesday, Li Bing Bing was accosted by a group of young fans, cameras in hand. Li, thirty-eight, one of the China’s most famous actresses, was perfectly coiffed, and dressed in skinny black pants, a butterfly-print top and a crisp white blazer with a mandarin collar. Her face gave way to an ever-so-slight sulk as the fans excitedly chatted in their native Mandarin and gathered around. But then the petite actress swept her hand through her hair, rose from her seat and smiled pleasantly for the photo.
Li had arrived in town earlier in the week to promote her latest film, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, accompanied by director Wayne Wang, author Lisa See, and producer Florence Sloan. (The latter’s counterpart, producer Wendi Deng Murdoch and wife of Newscorp’s Rupert, was conspicuously absent.) The movie is loosely based on See’s novel, which is set in a remote, nineteenth-century Chinese village and follows the difficult, foot-bound lives of Lily and Snow Flower. The women have been laotong (“same old”)—or, as one might say, BFFs—since meeting at age seven and, when apart, communicate the tales of their lives through written messages using their own made-up language. For those who may have been excited by the trailer, ahem, there is no lesbian sex, nuanced or not. Wang also took substantial artistic license, reimagining the story through a split in time and personality—the modern-day, bustling, city lives of businesswoman Nina (Lily) and writer Sophia (Snow Flower).