最爱 | Til Death Do Us Part

Love for Life

The peacefulness of a rural village has been disrupted by an outbreak of a disease, which the locals call ‘a fever’. Villagers learn very quickly that there is no cure for the disease and refuse to have anything to do with the infected. Lao Zhuzhu is a teacher at the now-abandoned village school and the father of Zhao Qiquan, the blood merchant responsible for causing the outbreak. He decides to make amendments to the villagers on behalf of his unrepentant son by inviting all the infected villagers, including his younger son, Zhao Deyi, to live with him at the village school, where they will look after one another. One day, Shang Qinqin, donning a red jacket, arrives at the school compound to join the small community…

Directed by Changwei Gu | Starring : Ziyi Zhang, Aaron Kwok, Wenli Jiang, Zeru Tao, Cunxin Pu | Presented at Rome Film Festival

让子弹飞 | Let the Bullets Fly

Let the Bullets Fly

Set during the Age of the Warlords in the 1920s, this comic western is the highest grossing Chinese film ever. When circumstances force an outlaw to impersonate a county governor and clean up a corrupt town, the Robin Hood figure finds himself in a showdown with the local “godfather”. Full of surprises and grounded with a smart, humorous script, Let the Bullets Fly’s battles are fought with guns and wit.a

Directed by Wen Jiang | Starring : Wen Jiang, Yun-Fat Chow, You Ge, Bing Shao, Fan Liao | Presented at Tribeca Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival, London Film Festival

太阳照常升起 | The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises

Wen Jiang’s personality takes center stage in The Sun Also Rises, his first effort since the 2000 Devils on the Doorstep, a film that has yet to be released in China. While The Sun Also Rises captivates with its sumptuous colors, magical realism, high energy, and outstanding performances, its elliptical plot and lack of coherent narrative suggests that Jiang may have purposely clouded the film’s meaning in symbols and code to escape the Chinese censors. Loosely based on author Ye Mi’s novel Velvet, the film is set in China during the Cultural Revolution. There are four stories and six characters in the film, but they have a tenuous connection to each other. Three episodes are set in the 1970s and one twenty years earlier, but Jiang provides no intertitles or other indicators to help the viewer recognize changes in theme, time, or place. As the film opens with a tableau of gorgeous colors and people running, a young woman identified as the mother of a teenage boy buys a pair of embroidered shoes. The colorful shoes are promptly stolen by a mysterious bird, which repeats the mantra “I know, I know, I know,” and the woman falls into what seems to be madness—climbing trees, collecting rocks, digging a pit in the middle of the forest, and screaming the name of Alyosha (which we eventually learn was the name of the boy’s father). Meanwhile her dutiful son tries to protect her, at the cost of having to constantly leave his job. The segment is playful, magical, and poetic in its songs and poetry, and it suggests that insanity reigned supreme during the Cultural Revolution.

Directed by Wen Jiang | Starring : Wen Jiang, Joan Chen, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Jaycee Chan, Wei Kong | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Changchun Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival

一个陌生女人的来信 | Letter from an Unknown Woman

Letter From an Unknown Woman

A man rides home through a war-ridden city. A letter waits for him at home. It’s a letter written by a woman before her death. In it, she tells him that she loves him, a lifelong passion that hasn’t lessened with time, but of which he knew nothing. She recounts their short but passionate young love – to him, simply one more brief romance among many; the difficulties she had in raising their child; and their final meeting, at which he didn’t recognize her. Now that she has lost her son (the only thread linking her to the man she loved), she no longer has the strength to live on… Shaken by the letter, the man searches his memory for the nameless woman.

Directed by Jinglei Xu | Starring : Jinglei Xu, Wen Jiang, Feihu Sun, Xiaoming Su, Jue Huang | Presented at San Sebastian Film Festival, Seattle Film Festival, Edinburgh Film Festival

茉莉花开 | Jasmine Women

Jasmine Women

Jasmine Women is adapted from the novel Women’s Life by the famous writer Su Tong, whose literary works have been turned into many films, among them Zhang Yimou’s Raise the Red Lantern. Jasmine Women follows a family whose female members from three different generations all experience frustration in marriage, as if the family is cursed. In the 1930s, Mo, brought up by her single mother, develops a romance with the studio manager and is dumped after she gets pregnant. She blames her daughter Li for all her miseries. In the 1960s, Li can no longer put up with her mother Mo and marries a construction worker. Being impotent, Li adopts a child from the orphan named Hua. In the 1980s, Li suspects that her husband has an incestuous affair with Hua. Her husband commits suicide and Li becomes schizophrenic. Hua’s marriage is no better than her mother’s or grandmother’s – her husband finds a mistress and she decides to divorce him although she has already conceived his child…

Directed by Yong Hou | Starring : Ziyi Zhang, Joan Chen, Wen Jiang, Ye Liu, Yi Lu | Presented at Shanghai Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival, Iceland Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival

天地英雄 | Warriors of Heaven and Earth

Warriors of Heaven and Earth

North of the vast 8th century Tang dynasty Chinese empire, the commercially and culturally priceless silk route is controlled by 36 friendly Buddhist kingdoms. Their are threatened by Turkic nomad tribes, the caravans also by brigand bands. Japanese scholar Lai Qimay not return home until the emperor is satisfied with his missions to retrieve refugees from the barren border lands. The last is competent imperial lieutenant Li, who was proscribed for refusing to execute Turkic prisoners. He now lives among fellow warriors for hire as caravan escorts. Lai Qi and Li reach a gentleman’s agreement to postpone their lethal duel till after the safe arrival of a caravan including a young Buddhist monk and his mysterious freight. When Turkic warlord Khan’s daughter’s hand seals an alliance with brigand sword master An, the only way out is trough the grimly dry Gobi desert.

Directed by Ping He | Starring : Wen Jiang, Kiichi Nakai, Xueqi Wang, Wei Zhao, Bagen Hasi | Presented at Tokyo Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival, Oslo Film Festival

我和爸爸 | My Father and I

My Father and I

After Xiao Yu’s mother died in an accident, she moved back to live with her birth father who she knows little about. Gradually, they grew to know each other and to accept each other for who they are. They share the unconditional love between a daughter and a father through their happiness and their difficulties.

Directed by Jinglei Xu | Starring : Jinglei Xu, Daying Ye, Xiaoming Su, Qiu Qiu, Yuan Zhang | Presented at Toronto Film Festival

绿茶 | Green Tea

Green Tea

Wu Fang, a bookish graduate student, goes on blind dates, engaging in conversation while sipping on her signature drink: green tea. She claims she does this to find a suitable husband, but her dates seem to be more of a time killer than anything else. She frequently ditches her blind dates halfway, and spends most of her date time relating the tale of her friend’s parents. Chen Mingliang is a fast talking rascal who, after a blind date, manages to break through her reserve. Soon Mingliang encounters sultry lounge pianist Lang Lang, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Wu Fang.

Directed by Yuan Zhang | Starring : Wei Zhao, Wen Jiang, Lijun Fang, Haizhen Wang, Yuan Zhang | Presented at Hamburg Film Festival

寻枪 | The Missing Gun

The Misssing Gun

A small-town cop wakes up one morning after a wild night of celebration to discover that his gun – a rare, state-issued firearm loaded with three bullets – is missing. While he attempts to retrace his steps from the previous night – his ex-girlfriend turns up dead, and the bullet appears to be from his gun… Now, in order to clear his name and convince the authorities that he’s not the killer, he must race against time to find the gun before the other two bullets find their next victims. An international cast of exciting and sexy superstars go full-force in Missing Gun – a cool, stylish action thriller abut love and power and one man’s attempt to honor the delicate and explosive balance between the two.

Directed by Chuan Lu | Starring : Wen Jiang, Yujuan Wu, Jing Ning, Shi Liang, Xiaoning Liu | Presented at Pusan Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Göteborg Film Festival, Seattle Film Festival, Moscow Film Festival, Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Cinemanila Film Festival

鬼子来了 | Devils on the Doorstep

Devils on the Doorstep

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and banned in its native country, Jiang Wen’s ravishingly photographed anti-war epic is set in 1945 in a Japanese-occupied rural Chinese village. Wen stars as Ma Dasan, a peasant, who, one night at gunpoint, is compelled to shelter two prisoners. One is a captured Japanese soldier who wants to be killed, the other his Chinese interpreter, who wants to stay alive. As the days turn into months, Dasan and his fellow villagers keep their unwanted guests hidden from the Japanese forces, while deciding whether or not to execute their captives. The film’s rich, bold cinematography is matched only by its approach to the subject matter, which, in turn, attracted the unwanted attention of the Chinese censors who ultimately banned it from Chinese screens.

Directed by Wen Jiang | Starring : Wen Jiang, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ding Yuan, Yihong Jiang, Zhijun Cong | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Singapore Film Festival, Hawaii Film Festival, Wisconsin Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival

有话好好说 | Keep Cool

Keep Cool

Utilizing a hand-held camera to create a frantic, off-balance effect that is radically different from the techniques with which he made his films best known to Western audiences Raise the Red Lantern and Ju Dou, Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou has made a fast-paced modern comedy that serves as an allegory for the state of China in the late 1990s. The story’s protagonist is Xiao Shuai, a bookseller who falls in love with the seductive, free-spirited An Hong. To learn her address, Xiao follows her, but An spurns his advances. He refuses to give up; eventually she caves in and invites him to her home for some quick love. Unfortunately they start, but are interrupted at a crucial moment. Later Xiao is accosted by the burly henchmen of An’s new lover, a sleazy nightclub owner. They are beating him like an old rug when Lao Zhang, an old researcher, intervenes. During the scuffle, his prized laptop computer is smashed and later, he demands that Xiao replace it. But Xiao cares nothing for the destroyed laptop; he only wants revenge upon his attackers. Together he and Lao arrange to meet the villains in their club for a showdown.

Directed by Yimou Zhang | Starring : Wen Jiang, You Ge, Ying Qu, Baotian Li, Benshan Zhao | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Sao Paulo Film Festival

秦颂 | The Emperor’s Shadow

Emperor's Shadow

The Qin emperor Shih Huang Ti is on his way to conquering the 6 Kingdoms of feudal China and uniting the Middle Kingdom. He recalls childhood friend Gao Qian Li who is the undisputed maestro of the Chinese lute. The emperor asks him to compose a symphony in celebration of his victory in the bloody war to unify China. A man who refuses to bow to the force of tyranny, Gao Qian Li is unwilling to undertake the composition. Frustrated and angered by Gao’s unrelenting disobedience, yet unable and unwilling to kill him for reasons of his obvious talents and their childhood friendship, the tyrant appears to have met his match. Matters take a twisted turn as Gao falls prey to the seduction of the emperor’s crippled daughter, Princess Ping Yang violating her virginity and enraging the Emperor even further. Both Gao and the Princess use each other as pawns, to vent their anger at the cruel Emperor. At her behest, Gao finally composes the song Tribute to Qin. After the premiere performance of the song, Gao suicidally jumps into the river with his flaming lute, drowning his music forever. This is a movie of epic proportions, exploring the twisted relationship between the ruthlessly tyrannical Qin Emperor and his childhood playmate. The sets are impressively stunning as are the performances by both male leads, both emerging from the tutelage of Chinese New Wave meister, Zhang Yi Mou.

Directed by Xiaowen Zhou | Starring : You Ge, Wen Jiang, Qing Xu, Yuan Yuan, Qingxiang Wang | Presented at San Sebastian Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, AFI Film Festival

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

大太监李莲英 | Li Lianying, the Imperial Eunuch

Li Lianying

Tian admits that this chamber epic was not a ‘personal’ project; for a film which began shooting only a few months after the Tiananmen Square massacre, it certainly feels more like a flight into history than even an oblique response to the moment. Spanning the last five decades of the Qing Dynasty, it centres on the oddly affectionate relationship between Empress Dowager Cixi and her chief eunuch; the stars were a real life couple at the time. The often filmed historical facts are rehearsed efficiently enough: the folly of deflecting naval funds to the building of the Summer Palace, puppet emperor Guangxu’s ill fated bid for autonomy as a reformist and so on. But the film is vindicated by its prime mover Jiang Wen’s colossal performance as Li; no other actor has ever gone deeper into the implications of castration and living as a neutered animal.

Directed by Zhuangzhuang Tian | Starring : Wen Jiang, Xiaoqing Liu, Fan Xu, Xu Zhu, Jiali Ding | Presented at Berlin Film Festival

本命年 | Black Snow

Black Snow

Winner of the Silver Bear in Berlin in 1990, Black Snow is a politically daring tale of urban alienation and despair. A former prisoner, played by the great Chinese actor Jiang Wen, arrives back in his native Beijing to find that he has no family or prospects or friends, just his underworld contacts trying to drag him back into a life of crime…

Directed by Fei Xie | Starring : Wen Jiang, Hongxiang Cai, Tian Liang, Hong Yue, Cheng Lin | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Singapore 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

芙蓉镇 | Hibiscus Town

Hibiscus Town

Hu Yuyin, a young woman in a small Chinese town on the eve of the Cultural Revolution is happily married and runs a successful roadside food stall selling spicy beancurd. Yuyin is supported by Party members Li Mangeng, who once wanted to marry her, and Director Gu, a war veteran in charge of the granary. But in 1964 the Four Cleanups Movement sends a Party work-team to root out Rightists and capitalist roaders. The team is led by Li Guoxiang,a single woman, and helped by Wang Qiushi, a former poor peasant who has lost his land because of his drinking. At a public struggle session, Yuyin is declared to be a “new rich peasant.” Both her home and business are taken from her and her husband, Li Guigui commits suicide in despair. After the first waves of the Revolution have ended, Yuyin returns to the town, now relegated to a lowly street sweeper. She then falls in love with Qin Shutian, who had come in the 1950s to collect local folksongs but was declared to be one of the Five Black Categories. When Yuyin becomes pregnant, however, this loving relationship attracts the outrage of Li Guoxiang and Wang Qiushe, who themselves are having a secret affair. Shutian is sent to reform through labor and it is not until Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in 1978 that his case is reviewed and he is allowed to return and help Yuyin re-establish their street restaurant.

Directed by Jin Xie | Starring : Wen Jiang, Xiaoqing Liu, Zaishi Zheng, Shibin Zhu, Songzi Xu | Presented at Karlovy Vary Film Festival