La Peintre, starring Gong Li and Derek Yee Tung-shing. Directed by Wong Suk-kan. Category II. Coming to the Regal Theatre Circuit. ONE wonders just how much China's greatest director, Zhang Yimou, has had to do with La Peintre, apart from the fact that it stars his girlfriend Gong Li. He is credited as coordinator-director, but the end product is certainly a far cry from the visual stylist's best work. Gong, who has already made a few commercial films (The Terracotta Warrior, The Flirting Scholar) under someone else's direction, is suitably impressive as a prostitute-turned-respectable-artist in Paris. But what could have been a pointed tale of a Chinese woman defying destiny (battling conservatism, sexism, and feudalism in China) turned into a standard-issue bio-film with a series of disjointed tableaux about a struggling woman artist. Gong leaves the brothel to become the concubine of a Chinese general (played by Derek Yee). She studies art with her husband's artist friend, then goes to France to further her craft, finally returning to Shanghai with a prize-winning self-portrait calledThe Bathing Woman. But the young woman returns home at the wrong time - at the height of the Cultural Revolution when Western paintings and nudity in art are condemned. Her understanding husband lets her go back to Paris alone to further hone her art, and that is the last he sees of her. The acting is good all round, with Yee (a director of substance in his own right) admirably keeping up with his mercurial co-star, who 'ages' beautifully in the film.