杏花三月天 | The Story of Xinghua

The Story of Xinghua

This Chinese melodrama presents an allegory tinged with feminism with it’s portrayal of life and free enterprise in a modern, liberalized Chinese mountain village. Wanglai is the shady town grocer who steals stones from the Great Wall to sell as souvenirs. His neighbor Fulin is nothing like him. Fulin is sensitive, educated and spiritual. He makes his living planting saplings. Wanglai’s store-bought bride Xinghua cannot bear him children; he therefore, frequently batters her then cheats upon her. In the gentle Fulin Xinghua finds a soul-mate. Fulin too, is drawn to her and shyly tells her so. The two passionately consummate their love during a rainstorm. Xinghua gets pregnant and wants to divorce her cruel husband. Fulin becomes uneasy. Though he is more liberal than Wanglai, he is still bound by tradition. When Wanglai discovers he has been cuckolded he ruins Fulin’s plantation and beats Fulin and then Xinghua mercilessly. He wants her child regardless of the father, but she destroys him by pointing out that he, not she, is the infertile one.

Directed by Li Yin | Starring : Wenli Jiang, Guoli Zhang, Shaojun Tian, Haiyan Zhang, Xingli Niu | Presented at Cannes Film Festival

双旗镇刀客 | The Swordsman in Double Flag Town

The Swordsman in Double Flag Town

Wuxia film production stopped on the Chinese mainland after 1949. In the wuxia blockbusters, made again on the mainland post-2000 (of which Zhang Yimou’s Hero is most well-known), there’s often an emphasis on heroes compromising with the authorities, traditional chivalry having disappeared without a trace. The Swordsman in Double Flag Town stands unique among mainland wuxia films, and it is certainly no coincidence that it was produced right after the Tiananmen crackdown. The vast, desert quality of the landscape has more than a little of the American Western about it, and the dangerous duels in which a single stroke decides which participant will live or die brings to mind the atmosphere of a Japanese samurai film. The unique characters and minimal dialogue accompanying these suggest the cinematic style favoured by the Fifth Generation directors, while retaining the suspense and the drama of the wuxia genre.

Directed by Ping He | Starring : Wei Gao, Mana Zhao, Jiang Chang, Haiying Sun, Gang Wang | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival