|Index||3 reviews in total|
"Red Dust" tells us the story of writer Shao Hua (Lin Ching Hsia) during
period 1935-1950. And it does it in an excellent way!
The story starts from a very personal point of view, by depicting the days
when Shao Hua used to write alone, locked up in the attic by her father,
then slowly unfolds to the wider reality of a country suffering poverty
persecution, because of the Japanese first, because of the clashes between
the nationalists and the communists later.
However, it's not a sad movie: Shao Hua has love and friendship to care
about (although they do enter in contrast, as she comes in contact both
people working for the Japanese and with "partisans"), and indeed the
is more of a journey of her heart, as she climbs through the ups and downs
of life, with moments of laughter and glee following or giving way to
moments of disappointment and insight. Alongside, as she is a writer, we
also get to see as the steps of her existence influence the developing of
This, added to some wonderful movie stills, a pleasant and rich soundtrack, great expressiveness from the two leads Lin Ching Hsia & Maggie Cheung and a careful view on China's historical background, make "Red Dust" a must see! 10/10
It's been described as a Chinese 'Dr. Zhivago', but despite an impressive sweep to the crowd scenes this turbulent, 50-year love story between a single-minded writer and a wartime collaborator might well have been called 'Red Soap'. The romance itself is handled with admirable understatement and delicacy, but everything else about this typically energetic, over-the-top Hong Kong production is larger than life, with performances, photography, and a music score pitched near the threshold of hysteria. Director/co-writer Yim Ho tosses everything together into the slowly boiling pot (including a syrupy love song), and the perhaps too busy scenario gives the film a careless, slapdash look (at one point a crew member fanning artificial snow onto the set is clearly visible in a window reflection). Predictably, it all ends in tears, but the lump-in-the-throat epilogue at least adds a graceful coda to the otherwise overwrought melodrama.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Red Dust" is a political commentary presented as romantic historical
melodrama. Filmed in the immediate aftermath of the Tien An Men massacre,
tells the story of an woman who escapes her difficult reality by writing
romantic stories. The author, Shen Shao-Hua, is immediately identified
the real-life Eileen Chang, who also escaped imprisonment by an abusive
stepfather, wrote romantic stories, and survived comfortably during the
Japanese occupation. Unlike Eileen Chang, who escaped the Revolution and
lived out her days in Los Angeles, Shen Shao-Hua remains behind and
a recognized writer in Communist China.
Brigitte Lin is magnificent as Shen Shao-Hua, and Maggie Cheung is wonderful as her best friend. Both convey an amazing range of emotion throughout this Zhivago-like love story, and hold the viewer enthralled every moment they are on the screen. The men in the movie are more two dimensional; one has little conscience, the other is a cardboard saint.
*** The next paragraph discusses elements of the film and may be considered by some to contain "spoilers." ***
Shen Shao-Hua can be interpreted as a stand-in for China herself, as she suffers through terrible ordeals, managing to survive by disregarding honor, saving her dreams for her stories. Shen survives thanks to her lover's collaboration with the murderous Japanese, yet this is forgiven. Her best friend is murdered by the Nationalists during a student rally in an obvious reference to Tien-An-Men, but Shen nevertheless relies on a wealthy sugar-daddy, ignoring starving people in the streets, and tries to escape with the Nationalists to Taiwan. As she is forced to stay behind, Shen is reassured by the sugar daddy that she will find a way to survive the Communists also, and she does. The current Chinese government is clearly identified as behaving similarly to the Japanese and the Nationalists, with the Chinese people as the long suffering victims. Yet most will do make whatever compromises are necessary for survival; heroes wind up dead.
This is one of the great films of world cinema, although it is disappointingly hard to find, and prints tend to be of low quality, with some white-on-white subtitles. But the film transcends these difficulties. Find it and see it.
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