In 3A.D., during the Eastern Jin Dynasty, parents dress a very pretty, very privileged girl like a boy so she may be educated in a local boarding school. There, she falls in love with a ... See full summary »
In 3A.D., during the Eastern Jin Dynasty, parents dress a very pretty, very privileged girl like a boy so she may be educated in a local boarding school. There, she falls in love with a poor, but handsome and industrious young man, but their short love affair ends in disaster. Written by
A beautifully done film of the Butterfly Lovers, a traditional Chinese love story. The first half is done as a romantic comedy, wherein a rich girl is sent to college dressed as a boy, and meets another student who can't understand his strong attraction to the new kid. Since the film is set roughly 2000 years ago, the contemporary style of music and dialogue is a bit jarring at points. I sometimes felt like the filmmaker was influenced by the 80's romance "About Last Night..."
The film takes a darker turn when the girl's parents have her return home to complete the marriage they have already arranged. Throughout the film there are references to their pursuit of status -- what the mother gave up, what is expected from the daughter, the father's use of cosmetics for "rosy cheeks" and how that turns out to be less lucky than he expected. It's a hint that not everyone is going to get what they hope for.
Sprinkled throughout is wonderful imagery: A simple wedding gift covered in the dust raised by the retainers for a competing wedding party. A student holding a broken zither overhead as the day turns to night. A monk relaxing on the shore of a koi pond, asking that the fish be set free.
The VHS tape, however, might easily drive you mad. The good news is that it's letterboxed so that you won't miss any of the gorgeous cinematography. Despite this, the subtitles are shown on the film area -- even though there's plenty of room below -- and the white lettering used seems to disappear into the background about 25% of the time. And if you can read the subtitles -- well, the translation has its weaker points. For example, one of the schoolmasters plays a variant of Go while his students are taking their test. The subtitles translate the game as "chess."
There are other artistic nitpicks I might make, such as the pointless "soccer" game that one of the teachers invents, or the complete inability of the girl to look anything like a boy. Overall, though, it's a wonderful film that is well worth seeing for the story, the performances, and the lessons to be learned.
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