Friday, November 03, 2006

[1980] THE LEGEND OF TIANYUN MOUNTAIN: My first foray into mainland China for this project! This one was on the Asia Weekly 100 greatest Chinese films list; directed by Xie Jin, it seems to be one of the earliest "scar" movies, which addressed/criticized/exposed the horrors, excesses and atrocities of the Cultural Revolution. The direction is very much of the "realist" style: minimal orchestration, quiet, understated performances, nobody getting shot or jumping out of buildings or anything. It's a thwarted love story: two women fall for the same guy, but once he gets sent out to the boonies for being a bourgeois intellectual only one of them sticks with them, and she's portrayed as more sad-sackish (she wears glasses--wasn't that always a mark of the intellectual in communist propaganda?) The other is a gung-ho party type who can't take life in the hinterlands so she marries a party member back in the city and moves on from there. Of course, years later her ex's file comes up for review in her office and she has a whole lot of guilt to work out, because she's the one living the comfortable life while her ex and her old friend sweat it out on the farm. It's not as terribly propagandish as you would think a film of this era would be, and mostly works out to be a quiet drama of missed opportunities and eroded idealism. Check it out just to see what a good pre-Zhang Yimou/Chen Kaige People's Republic film looks like--the VCD is both cheap and pretty decent looking.

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