Among the many genres of Chinese film, the rural drama is one that stands out. There are those of Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige, as well as many others such as 'Postman in the Mountains. I certainly prefer them to those that pick at the ugly scab of the Cultural Revolution. While historically important, the events of the Cultural Revolution, much like the horrors of war, are hard to relate to for those who did not live through it. Which is not to deny the importance of such films, but the simple humanity of films such as the aforementioned rural dramas, and this film 'Nuan', weaves a spell that is hard to shake off.
This film takes place in and around a modest, but well-watered village in a picturesque part of Jiangxi (I think). It is wonderfully green, and notwithstanding the hardships of rural life, looks quite idyllic. The narrator, Jinghe, has returned after about ten years away, and is actually leaving for the city again when he come across Nuan, the woman of the title. She suffers from a limp, and still nurses a grievance against Jinghe, one that is explained as the film progresses. Jinghe returns to the village with her, hoping perhaps to right the wrongs of the past, and the viewer is taken along too, through numerous reminiscences and lengthy flashbacks. Jinghe also meets Nuan's daughter, and her husband, the mute and volatile A Ba, of whom Nuan had actually been afraid when younger.
All four of the main characters are excellently portrayed by the actors, though the Japanese actor (Terujuki Kagawa) playing A Ba stood out in particular. The camera-work was well done, exploiting the interesting aspects of interiors and exteriors. There was so much to look at in some shots, that I'm glad they were held for long enough to enjoy more fully. On top of this, the music was really icing on the cake, particularly the bamboo flute, which was so evocative of time and place, of tranquil contemplation and bittersweet nostalgia.
I heartily recommend this movie to anyone already interested in Chinese film, or even as an ideal introduction for those new to Chinese film due to its attractiveness and accessibility. It is a worthy addition to the genre of the rural drama, is well written, well acted and beautifully photographed.
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