7.6/10
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Spring in a Small Town (1948)

Xiao cheng zhi chun (original title)
A lonely housewife finds her monotonous life altered when her childhood sweetheart returns to town.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Chaoming Cui ...
Wei Li ...
Yu Shi ...
Dai Liyan
Wei Wei ...
Zhou Yuwen
Hongmei Zhang ...
Meimei
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Storyline

Following WWII and with China brought to it's knees by the actions of the Japanese, prior to the rise of the Communists, led by Chairman Mao. This is the time during which Fei Mu's film takes place. Wei Wei plays a woman who lives a lonely life, shackled by her care for her gentle, but ill husband (Shi Yu)- that is until her first love reappears into her life. This is Fei's penultimate film as director, but is still enjoyed by many today as one of his best works. It has now been a firm favorite of many since it was restored in the 80's by the China Film Archive and some rate it as one of the greatest Chinese movies in history. Written by Toby Elliot

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Drama | Romance

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10 November 1993 (Germany)  »

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Spring in a Small Town  »

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1.37 : 1
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Trivia

Voted the best Chinese-language film of all time by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society in 2002. See more »

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Referenced in Ngon na ma dak lin na (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

Elegant and intimate
15 September 2003 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

Produced in 1948 prior to the Communist takeover in China, Spring in a Small Town is a lyrical depiction of the intense psychological rivalry between two friends for the love of one woman. Directed by Fei Mu and based on a short story by Li Tianji, the film dramatizes the emotional entanglement of four people, conveying an intense eroticism that is powerful and haunting. Dai Liyan (Shi Yu), and his wife Zhou Yuwen, magnificently portrayed by the alluring Wei Wei, live in his old family house with Liyan's teenage sister, Dai Xiu (Zhang Hongmei) and the family servant Lao Huang (Cui Chaoming). Because of Liyan's tuberculosis, they are forced to sleep in separate rooms. Yuwen is a loyal and devoted wife but is bored and prefers to spend her time embroidering or going for solitary walks along the top of the crumbling city wall.

When Zhang Zhichen (Li Wei), a boyhood friend of Liyan who is now a doctor arrives from Shanghai, it is revealed that Yuwen was his childhood sweetheart when she was only sixteen. The tension becomes palpable as each character is forced to hide their true self and feelings are expressed only with glances, body language, mannerisms, and silence. Zhichen's arrival brings a spark of life to the moribund household and soon all are taking walks together, singing songs, and playing games. The relationship between Yuwen and Zhichen slowly becomes rekindled and is crystallized at Xiu's 16th birthday party when both have too much to drink. When Yuwen cuts her hand on broken glass after a struggle with Zhichen, however, a distressing event occurs that transforms everyone's life.

Spring in a Small Town has an elegance and intimacy that I found lacking in the remake last year by Tian Zhuanghuang. By depicting events from Yuwen's point of view and adding a poetic voiceover, Mu's film brings us much closer to the characters. Spring in a Small Town did not receive immediate critical acclaim when it was released and Fei Mu was labeled a "rightist" and left for Hong Kong, never to make another film. The film only began to find its audience when the China Film Archive made a new print in the early 80s. Now many Chinese critics consider it the greatest Chinese film ever made. I certainly would not argue with that.


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