Loneliness, saving face, and public mores. In 1983 in China, Yun is a bright schoolgirl who gets pregnant. She's expelled, her boyfriend leaves town, and her mother arranges the baby's ... See full summary »
Loneliness, saving face, and public mores. In 1983 in China, Yun is a bright schoolgirl who gets pregnant. She's expelled, her boyfriend leaves town, and her mother arranges the baby's adoption, telling Yun the child died at birth. Ten years later, Yun sings pop songs in a dive, takes the occasional married lover, and lives with her mother, a teacher. The mother tutors a student, Xiao-yong, a lad of ten, who becomes attached to Yun. Yun's mother discovers who the boy's really is and a struggle begins. Should he be told; should Yun reclaim him; does her mother's opinion matter; what about the woman who's raised him? Is there room in a Chinese town for a woman to breathe? Written by
Stylish if overlong, visually splendid tale of a downtrodden girl in 80s/90s China
1983 in Communist China, schoolgirl Yun gets pregnant to fellow 2nd-year student Wang Feng. Her hospital worker mother says she'll do the delivery at home, but thrashes Yun for the shame she has brought on them all till the girl threatens to commit suicide in front of her. The pair's moral decadence is condemned over school loudspeakers and they are expelled. They decide to 'have rather than sell' the baby and, after premature delivery, we discover Yun's mother has told her it's dead while secretly planning to give it up for adoption. Ten years later, the talented Yun is forced to lower herself to working in a cheap stage show. The story follows the tale of this brave young woman trying to find a way out of her predicament.
Yun's character is well drawn. We hear her sing both classical (Sichuan Opera) and popular song, and lament that she is dragged down to the level of the bawdy establishment. (Liu Yi, who plays Yun, is also a trained opera singer.) Her employer tries to sleep with her for money. Even at her wedding she suffers humiliation: "Are her tits soft?" We long for her to have the chance to rise above an environment where she is oppressed at every turn.
The other characters are realistically played but less captivating. The boy from across the river is fascinating, but his endless naughty pranks seem repetitive. Yun's mother and the men in her life are rather two-dimensional, vehicles to progress the story and little more. The insights into China however - whether the schooling or spending "a few days in jail" for a murder - are enthralling. The film's main plus is its visual impressiveness, bursting into colour against drab backgrounds. When Yun is attacked on stage, she is in full costume; an overhead shot captures a wooden vase of flowers as it falls, the fallen blooms lying next to the performer who is beaten almost unconscious.
Dam Street is a picturesque odyssey of a young woman living through a period of China that Westerners are largely unfamiliar with. It is very stylish in places but drags on too long, especially as the dramatic punch line is all too obvious by half way through.
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