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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2002)
"Xiao cai feng" (original title)

7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 3,443 users   Metascore: 65/100
Reviews: 45 user | 65 critic | 22 from Metacritic.com

Two youths sent for a Maoist "re-education" in the mountains fall in love with the village tailor's granddaughter.

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Title: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2002)

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Little Chinese Seamstress
...
Ma
...
Luo
Shuangbao Wang ...
Head of the Village
Zhijun Cong ...
Old Tailor
Hongwei Wang ...
Four Eyes
Xiong Xiao ...
Mother of Four Eyes
Zuohui Tang ...
Old Mill Worker
Wei Chen ...
Wife of the Head of the Village
Tianlu Chen ...
Director of the Commune
Qing-yun Fan ...
Doctor
Jie Min ...
Peasant
He Zhang ...
Peasant
Yukun Xu ...
Peasant
Lina Mei ...
Female Villager
Edit

Storyline

In 1971 China, in the lingering grip of the cultural revolution, two university students, Luo and Ma, are sent to a mountain mining village as part of their reeducation duty to purge them of their classical western oriented education. Amid the backbreaking work and stifling ignorance of the community, the two boys find that music, and the presence of the beautiful local young women are the only pleasant things in their miserable life. However, none compare to the young seamstress granddaughter of the local tailor. Stealing a departing student's secret cache of forbidden books of classic western literature such as the works of Honore de Balzac, they set about to woo her and teach her things she had never imagined. In doing so, they start a journey that would profoundly change her perspective on her world and teach the boys about the power of literature and their own ability to change their world in truly revolutionary ways. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Details

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Release Date:

9 October 2002 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$16,694 (USA) (29 July 2005)

Gross:

$665,260 (USA) (20 January 2006)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

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Sound Mix:

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Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Filming was allowed in China after seven months negotiations with the authorities, but any projection on Chinese territory was banned. See more »

Soundtracks

String quartet
opus 131
Composed by Ludwig van Beethoven
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User Reviews

 
A Nostalgic Look at Young People Impacted by the Cultural Revolution
20 September 2005 | by (Queens, NY) – See all my reviews

"Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Xiao cai feng)" raises the awkward situation of commenting on a semi-autobiographical story which was originally written, then adapted and directed by the person who lived it in the same, beautiful locations where the events that inspired Sijie Dai took place. How much is fiction and how much is docu-drama? And I haven't read the book so I don't know how much he changed.

The basics of the story would seem like a 1940's sci fi allegory of a totalitarian, anti-intellectual society if the Cultural Revolution under the here ubiquitously revered ruler Mao Tse Tung hadn't actually happened, with its anti-literate class-based revenge of kicking the children of the perceived elite out of the cities to rural areas for re-education at rigorous manual labor. In outline, his story is like a real life "Fahrenheit 451" and "the Little Seamstress," the teen ager, played charmingly by Xun Zhou, who gets caught up in a triangle between the out-of-towners, like "Ninotchka." She, startlingly, has far more ambition than the loyal peasant girl in "The Road Home."

So it's hard to tell if the strong condescension in the tone to the local peasantry is what the two young men finally learn to overcome or is somewhat shown to be just as endemic in the Communist Party as is seen at the end they were suppressing the beauty of local traditions almost as much as intellectual influences. Because the premise that transforming aesthetics can only come from outside influences through movies, fashion and Western literature and music just seems anthropologically naive as they poke fun at and trick the locals. We do see that the peasants appreciate story telling, sewing and songs - but only of the most earthy kind until the re-educated sneak in their experiences, disguised as homages to Lenin or Mao. For example, with the almost universality of stringed instruments in human culture, it's hard to believe that peasants would be that skeptical when first exposed to a violin.

The film is at its strongest, and loveliest, when it sticks to the personal relationships that result from contacts with the locals, as human nature is more powerful than ideology and youth is simply irrepressible and non-Orwellian. The romantic triangle plays out beautifully and gently demonstrates male instincts for Pygmalion control, irrespective of politics. The story affirms the Law of Unintended Consequences, heavily symbolized at the end with the coming of a dam on the river that will have the same effect on these towns as the TVA had on now forgotten communities in Appalachia.

This tender and poignant nostalgia is a chronological and thematic prequel to the less optimistic "The World (Shijie)" in showing the impact of globalization on China and its people.


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If only ... (humour) Red_Menace
Question about the language for US release... mippolit
For those that have read the book... manny_the_uncanny
'We both loved her, but in diferent ways' xlaituvalmetx
Wow- what a film..exceptionally moving ledgehall
DVD release Red_Menace

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