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

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老人与狗 | An Old Man and His Dog

Old Man And His Dog

The film, adapted from Zhang Xianliang’s story, goes back to the Cultural Revolution decade and depicts the shattering of an old man dream’s of having a family.

Directed by Jin Xie | Starring : Baocheng Gao, Gaowa Siqin, Tian Xie, En-he Feng | Presented at N/A

香魂女 | Woman Sesame Oil Maker

Woman Sesame Oil Maker

If money can’t buy happiness, can it at least buy control over others? Xiang is hard-working, running a small sesame oil business. Her husband is lazy and drinks; her son is blood simple. When Japanese investors provide capital to expand Xiang’s business, she has the wealth to raise her social standing and buy a wife for her son, Dunzi. When money and a forceful personality fail to bend others to her will, including daughter-in-law Huanhuan, Xiang must find another way to tranquillity.

Directed by Fei Xie | Starring : Gaowa Siqin, Yujuan Wu, Kesheng Lei, Baoguo Chen, Xiaoguang Hu | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, AFI Film Festival

似水流年 | Homecoming

Homecoming

In Yim Ho’s Homecoming, a beautiful, modern woman makes a long visit to the small Chinese village in which she was raised. The air of the film is anything but nostalgic, since its stunning heroine, Shan Shan, has a ruefulness bordering on despondency. Her life in Hong Kong is successful by many standards, and she has the poise, the wardrobe and the bad habits to prove it. The visit home forces her to contrast all this with the simple family life enjoyed by two of her childhood friends.

Directed by Ho Yim | Starring : Josephine Koo, Gaowa Siqin, Weixiang Xie, Yun Zhou | Presented at Berlin Film Festival

骆驼祥子 | Rickshaw Boy

Rickshaw Boy

Xiang Zi was a rickshaw boy who was always having a desire to excel and thirst for freedom. He got married with Hu Niu who unfortunately died of dystocia later. After Hu Niu died, another girl Xiao Fuzi fell in love with Xiang Zi but they were separated by poverty. Xiang Zi worked very hard in order to change his life, but only to find that Xiao Fuzi was dead when he just began to get hopeful for their future. Finally, Xiang Zi, a unflinching man, surrendered to that dark society.

Directed by Zifeng Ling | Starring : Fengyi Zhang, Gaowa Siqin, Bide Yan, Zongxiang Guan, Ziyue Zhao | Presented at Chicago Film Festival