阳光灿烂的日子 | In the Heat of the Sun

In the Heat of the Sun

“Change has wiped out my memories. I can’t tell what’s imagined from what’s real” One central obsession, time, preoccupies all of the greatest Chinese language films of the ‘90s. Each of these films in some way makes the most radical demands on our experience of temporality, exposes the ideological underpinnings of our preconceptions about time, and insists on a vision of breathtaking, liberating alternatives. Although it played in a few film festivals, In the Heat of the Sun remains largely unknown outside of China. Jiang Wen and writer Wang Shuo (the cynical “bad boy” of new Chinese literature) collaborated on this 1994 feature about coming-of-age in 1970s Beijing. A cast made up largely of young teenagers portrays what it might have been like to be young, privileged, and completely unfettered in a Beijing largely depopulated of adult authority figures by Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The film’s politics, though, are implied — mere shadows on its margins. Jiang’s camera, wandering at will through space, and tracking and backtracking through time, embodies an absolute freedom just out of reach of the film’s principals. Ostensibly a nostalgia film about the Cultural Revolution’s “good old days”, this film is much more: a self-consciously post-modern, post-“fifth generation” dismantling of the modern Chinese realist film; an ironic, romance-drenched interrogation of the possibility of eros and passion in a totalitarian era; and a meditation on the traps and opportunities afforded by creative mis-remembering.

Directed by Wen Jiang | Starring : Yu Xia, Wen Jiang, Geng Le, Jing Ning, Xueqi Wang | Presented at Venice Film Festival

Advertisements

边走边唱 | Life on a String

Life on a String

A blind master wanders through a mythic landscape of a terrific beauty to play his songs and sing his ballads. His whole life he’s had one hope, one dream of another world: According to a prophecy he shall be able to see, if he has broken 1000 of his banjo strings. His blind disciple, on the contrary, doesn’t want to rely on one hope. He longs for a woman’s love… Does sight await the saint when the 1000th string breaks? Can the disciple’s strength of character overcome provincial prejudice to win the hand of his love and a place in the village?

Directed by Kaige Chen | Starring : Zhongyuan Liu, Lei Huang, Qing Xu, Ling Ma, Erga Yao | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Istanbul Film Festival

红高粱 | Red Sorghum

Red Sorghum

Won Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. A stunning visual achievement, this new wave Chinese film succeeds on many levels–as an ode to the color red, as dark comedy, and as a sweeping epic with fairy tale overtones. Set in rural China in the 1920s, during the period of the Japanese invasion. The sorghum plot nearby is a symbolic playing field in the movie’s most stunning scenes. Here, people make love, murder, betray, and commit acts of bravery, all under the watchful eye of nature. Based on a novel by Mo Yan 莫言, Red Sorghum is Zhang Yimou’s directorial debut. An anonymous narrator tells the story of his grandmother, a bride-to-be in an arranged wedding with an aging leprous winemaker, and his grandfather, who was one of the sedan-chair bearers escorting her to her wedding. Along the way, a bandit forces her out of the sedan chair, and the two exchange looks after he saves her. The pair is re-united following the winemaker’s untimely death, whereupon they assemble the old winemaking crew. They endure travails with banditry, pestilence, war with the Japanese and the ongoing process of making good sorghum wine.

Directed by Yimou Zhang | Starring : Li Gong, Wen Jiang, Rujun Ten, Chun Hua Ji, Jia Zhaoji | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, New York Film Festival