Fifth Generation Chinese Cinema

Jianxin Huang – Hei pao shi jian AKA The Black Cannon Incident (1985)

Quote:
A key Fifth Generation work released during the second phase of Deng Xiaoping’s social and economic reforms, this robust social satire delightfully depicts the clash between the rising class of rapid industrial modernizers and old Party cadres with a serious Cultural Revolution hangover. The film chronicles the Kafkaesque predicament of a bumbling factory translator who is suspected of industrial espionage after sending an innocent telegram that is intercepted by a militant snoop. (The “black cannon” of the title refers to the missing chess piece the hapless hero is trying to locate.) Placed under investigation and reassigned to a less sensitive department but never informed of the reason for his demotion, he petitions to get his job back, sparking an increasingly obtuse and hilarious series of Party meetings, set in a boardroom straight out of German Expressionism. Read More »

Yue Lu – Zhao xiansheng AKA Mr. Zhao (1998)

From the Chicago Reader
A watershed in the history of Chinese cinema, this first feature (1998) directed by Lu Yue–the remarkable cinematographer of Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl and several recent features of Zhang Yimou, including Shanghai Triad–is an eye-opening comedy about adultery in contemporary Shanghai. Much of the dialogue is improvised by the talented actors–Shi Jingming as the husband, a professor of traditional Chinese medicine; Zhang Zhihua as his factory-worker wife; and Chen Yinan as his mistress and former student–and both the shooting style and the emotional directness of the performances suggest the filmmaking of John Cassavetes. Read More »

Yimou Zhang – Hong gao liang AKA Red Sorghum [91min edit] (1988)

Quote:

Celebrated Mainland filmmaker Zhang Yimou brings his inimitable touch to Red Sorghum, a sumptuous drama set during 1930s China, just prior to the Japanese occupation. Jiu’er (Gong Li) is a young bride arranged to marry the leprous owner of a sorghum winery. But the leper dies, and Jiu’er takes over the winery, along with her lover (Jiang Wen), a burly rogue with a natural, rough charisma. Their rural lives are filled with struggle and even joy, but the invasion of the Japanese brings tragedy and blood to their doorsteps. Told in glorious shades of red, Red Sorghum is quintessential Zhang Yimou, and uses setting, cinematography, and stunning imagery to create characters and mood that are both iconic and recognizable. Gong Li and Jiang Wen both turn in revelatory performances. As both an anti-war film and a portrait of pre-Communist Chinese life, Red Sorghum is a compelling, powerful achievement from a true master of cinema. Read More »

Zhuangzhuang Tian – Lie chang zha sha AKA On The Hunting Ground (1984)

Tian Zhuangzhuang is perhaps the best known of [the Fifth Generation] for reviving and revitalizing a staple of the Chinese film industry — the “national minority” genre. Made to celebrate the solidarity of the Chinese people under the Communist regime, these films, often made by studios based in the minority areas themselves, showcased the songs, dances, customs, and patriotism of the non-Han community. Stories of liberation, they usually contrast the “backwardness” of traditional life before the Revolution with the benefits of Chinese Communist rule. Read More »

Kaige Chen – Sacrifice (2010)

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Storyline
Sacrifice (Orphan of Zhao Family): To save the only child of the Zhao Family, whose whole clan is massacred at the hands of a nefarious minister, a doctor sacrifices his own son, and later becomes intent on seeking vengeance against the minister after the child grows up. For generations, the Zhao family has wielded power, even extending over the king. In a well-planned coup, their mortal enemy TU’AN GU (Wang Xue Qi) slaughters the entire clan, determined to wipe out their influence forever. However, a solitary Zhao baby survives the massacre, and is hidden and taken home by CHENG YING (Ge You), the doctor who delivered him, to live with his WIFE (Hai Qing) and their own newborn baby. Set on revenge, and raising the Zhao child as his own, Cheng Ying bides his time, enrolling himself and the Zhao orphan (whom he calls Cheng Bo) into the service of the Tu’an Gu household. Tu’ an Gu grows very fond of Cheng Bo and makes Cheng Bo his godson… Written by BronzeKeilani26 Read More »

Kaige Chen – Jing Ke ci Qin Wang AKA The Emperor and the Assassin [+extra] (1998)

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Synopsis:
Set in 221 BC, The Emperor and the Assassin tells of Ying Zheng (Li Xuejian) and his obsession to unite seven Chinese kingdoms and become the first Emperor of China. The film mixes spectacular battle scenes with court intrigue, counterpointed by the King’s complex relationship with the only woman he has truly loved, the Lady Zhao (Gong Li). From protocol-ridden palaces to wide open grasslands, this is a visually striking film, both beautiful and at the same time burdened with the horrors of the period. Read More »

Kaige Chen – Da yue bing AKA The Big Parade (1986)

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Synopsis:
Army volunteers train for places in China’s 1984 National Day parade, where they are expected to be a perfect marching unit.

Review:
Walter Goodman, NYT wrote:
From the impressive overhead shots of troops assembling for a march-past in Beijing’s huge central square on the 35th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, in October 1984, to the final slow-motion close-ups of them parading, the camera of Zhang Yimou commands ”The Big Parade.” The Chinese movie, directed by Chen Kaige and on view tonight at 6 o’clock and tomorrow at 8:30 P.M. as part of the New Directors/New Films festival, holds you by its photography even as you may be getting a bit restless at the Chinese version of the good old American boot-camp movie. Read More »