Ling Tang and his family live on his prosperous farm in rural Southern China and have not yet felt the impact of the Japanese invasion in the North. Tang's two oldest sons, Lao Ta Tan and Lao Er Tan are married and hard working while youngest son Lao San Tan remains a free spirit. Er's wife Jade is also willfully unconventional and desires to exercises her literacy skills by reading books, a most unfeminine practice in 1930's China. Tang's only daughter is married to Wu Lien, a city merchant who profits from selling Japanese goods. When the dreaded invasion reaches their village, the family is scattered as the sons join the resistance while Wu Lien survives by collaborating with the enemy. Written by
Those who know little of the invasion of China by the Japanese Imperialist Forces during World War Two can discover general ideas surrounding this period of world history. Granted, the film is somewhat melodramatic in places, and, yes, Westerners made up to look Chinese is somewhat disconcerting as one begins to view this film. Yet, as the film progresses one is soon so overpowered by the action of the film that these minor distractions quickly evaporate. In fact, one soon accepts Katherine Hepburn as Chinese and the true drama dominates the film. The basic theme of the film is the repelling of aggressive forces in one's homeland, a not uncommon theme for 1944. Jade (Hepburn) must not only battle the invaders, she must confront traditional Chinese family values. Both conflicts are challenging to a peaceful rural village about to clash with the changes of the twentieth century. As the film progresses, the agony of family fracture and the immensely powerful drama of the last few scenes turn this film into a sober reminder of the mutability which comes with war. Hepburn is very good in this movie, as is almost all the supporting cast. The "kitchen scene" may be one of the most suspenseful of the World War Two period films. Viewers are reminded that the war between Japan and China began in 1937, four years before United States involvement.
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