“Spring in a Small Town” is a remarkable fusion of classic form and the convincingly real. It moves from its central character, Yuwen, who is isolated in a small town, and in an arranged marriage with an ill neurasthenic husband, Lyan; and moves too from a truly enduring acting job by Wei Wei as Yuwen.
The story revolves around memory: memory of love, and memory of a pre-war period of youthful promise. These moments of being are stirred to life by the visit of the husband’s long estranged friend Zhang, who is now a city doctor. Zhang means renewed life and vigor at the desolate, war ruined estate of the noble Lyan, and love and passion to Yuwen, who happens to have been someone she once loved as a teen. Continue reading
Confucius (Chinese: 孔夫子; pinyin: Kǒng Fūzǐ) is a 1940 Chinese film directed by Fei Mu. Produced during the war, the film was released twice in the 1940s before being thought lost. In 2001, the film was rediscovered when an anonymous donor sent a damaged copy of the print to the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA). The HKFA then spent seven years restoring the print which was finally screened to modern audiences at the 33rd Hong Kong International Film Festival in April 2009.
The film depicts Confucius’s later life, as he traveled across a China divided by war and strife in an ultimately futile effort to teach various warlords and kings his particular philosophy.
Plot Summary: “In a remote mountain village, the teacher must leave for a month, and the mayor can find only a 13-year old girl, Wei Minzhi, to substitute. The teacher leaves one stick of chalk for each day and promises her an extra 10 yuan if there’s not one less student when he returns. Within days, poverty forces the class troublemaker, Zhang Huike, to leave for the city to work. Minzhi, possessed of a stubborn streak, determines to bring him back. She enlists the 26 remaining pupils in earning money for her trip. She hitches to Jiangjiakou City and begins her search. The boy, meanwhile, is there, lost and begging for food. Minzhi’s stubbornness may be Huike and the village school’s salvation.” Continue reading
Review (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
To Live is a simple title, but it conceals a universe. The film follows the life of one
family in China, from the heady days of gambling dens in the 1940s to the austere
hardship of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. And through all of their fierce struggles
with fate, all of the political twists and turns they endure, their hope is basically one
summed up by the heroine, a wife who loses wealth and position and children, and
who says, “All I ask is a quiet life together.” The movie has been directed by Zhang
Yimou, the leading Chinese filmmaker right now (although this film offended Beijing and
earned him a two-year ban from filmmaking). It stars his wife, Gong Li, the leading
Chinese actress (likewise banned). Together their credits include Ju Dou, Raise the Red
Lantern and The Story of Qui Ju. Like them it follows the fate of a strong woman, but
also this time a strong man; somehow they stick together through incredible hardships.
An angry miner revolts against the corruption of his village leaders. A migrant worker at home for the New Year discovers the infinite possibilities a firearm can offer. A pretty receptionist at a sauna is pushed to the limit when a rich client assaults her. A young factory worker goes from job to job trying to improve his lot in life. Four people, four different provinces.
Jia’s world has its own geography. It (re)organized China into a personal map, where almost everything starts and ends in the filmmaker’s native province of Shanxi. It is the starting point and the ultimate “home.” This is where Xiao Wu the pickpocket operated, where the itinerant performers of Zhantai (Platform, 2000) roamed, where the sad heroes of Ren xiao yao (Unknown Pleasures, 2002) burnt their lives out, where the migrant worker of San Xia hao ren (Still Life 2006) and Shijie (The World, 2004) came from. This is where Tian zhu ding starts and finishes at the end of a tragic “tour.” The cities of Fenyang or Datong, the countryside and the murderous privatized coal mines have long been a compass to Jia’s filmic China.
From DVD distributor trigon-film:
Wu Hongyan, woman executioner in her thirties, works at the court in the province of Shaanxi in China, where she executes women condemned to death only. In spite of her macabre job, Wu Hongyan travels every weekend to a town nearby to join parties organized by a marriage bureau. The result of her dating is mediocre, until she meets the mysterious Li Jun. But she is thousands of miles away of imagining that Li Jun’s wife is the last of the women she executed. Electrifying! Continue reading
Topics from social awkwardness to forced nutrition are among the subjects discussed by a man and the various acquaintances that drop by to sit on his couch during a vacation in “Routine Holiday,” a film so utterly devoid of pleasure or meaning it defies comparison. Pointless extended silences and uncomfortable spatial dynamics define this affected drama far more than insightful commentary does.
“Routine Holiday” is a nearly perfect festival movie. Wide release is not an option for a film that that takes the “motion” out of “motion pictures,” and only increased post-Olympic China fever will stoke any interest in even art house release overseas. Distribution in Asia, where Hollywood is king, is also a long shot.
A national holiday is the impetus for Li Hongqi’s (NETPAC winner “So Much Rice”) plodding meditation on China’s socio-political ills. The locus for a series of wooden conversations is Tuo Ga’s (Yang Bo) home, where a parade of friends and relatives drop by on their day off to say … absolutely nothing. The most excitement comes from the Lovelorn Man (Xiao He), who would really like to have an affair — and goes so far as to tell his wife so. The dour space inhabited by a man, his son, two brothers, and a committed couple is suitably bleak, and echoes the characters’ bleak worldviews. Continue reading