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Fifty years of modern Chinese history (1900-1950), including wars, revolutions and corrupt politics, as seen through the life and times of a simple Beijing policeman and his family. Written by
Don Marion <email@example.com>
Shen Yuan (Yang Shen) tells a man thrown into prison by the Japanese after a lifetime of loyal service to China, "The Chinese people have lived meaninglessly for 5,000 years, dying unmourned but things are different today". Shen, a revolutionary who has been fighting a guerilla war for many years, is ready to die for his belief that the Communist revolution will end Chinese enslavement to imperialists, foreigners, feudalists, and warlords forever. This Life of Mine, directed by Shi Hui, traces 50 years of Chinese history from the Qing Dynasty to the Communists. Told from the point of view of a simple Beijing policeman, Hui makes it clear that neither the Qing Dynasty, the Nationalists, or the Japanese ever really cared about the people and the injustices did not stop with each regime change.
This Life of Mine begins when Hui is 60 years old and shivering in the cold looking for food and shelter. His life is told in flashbacks beginning with his first job as a policeman, and then following his career through uprisings, takeovers, and revolutions as he defends whatever authority happens to be in power. Hui raises a family only to see them leave either through death, abduction by the authorities, or in the case of his beloved son Hai Fu, join the guerillas. The film is not a dry history lesson but a warm, funny and often very sad portrayal of a human being struggle for survival and dignity. Though at times he seems servile, he is a man of compassion and a loving provider for his family. The scene where he begs his last remaining child, Hai Fu, to stay with him when he asks permission to leave to join the guerillas is truly affecting.
Between 1947 and 1952, director Shi Hui was one of the most popular directors in China. Unfortunately for the world, just five years later, he was labeled a reactionary rightist and took his own life at the age of 42. It was a privilege to have been able to see a work by this master. This Life of Mine needs to be restored and released on DVD.
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