Jiang Wen stars in his third directorial work that boasts a stellar cast including Joan Chen, Anthony Wong and Jaycee Chan. A polyptych of interconnected stories in different time-zones, ... See full summary »
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Jiang Wen stars in his third directorial work that boasts a stellar cast including Joan Chen, Anthony Wong and Jaycee Chan. A polyptych of interconnected stories in different time-zones, shifting between a Yunnan village, a campus, and the Gobi Desert. Written by
Wen Jiang's personality takes center stage in The Sun Also Rises, his first effort since the 2000 Devils on the Doorstep, a film that has yet to be released in China. While The Sun Also Rises captivates with its sumptuous colors, magical realism, high energy, and outstanding performances, its elliptical plot and lack of coherent narrative suggests that Jiang may have purposely clouded the film's meaning in symbols and code to escape the Chinese censors. Loosely based on author Ye Mi's novel Velvet, the film is set in China during the Cultural Revolution. There are four stories and six characters in the film, but they have a tenuous connection to each other.
Three episodes are set in the 1970s and one twenty years earlier, but Jiang provides no intertitles or other indicators to help the viewer recognize changes in theme, time, or place. As the film opens with a tableau of gorgeous colors and people running, a young woman (Zhou Yun) identified as the mother of a teenage boy (Jaycee Chan) buys a pair of embroidered shoes. The colorful shoes are promptly stolen by a mysterious bird, which repeats the mantra "I know, I know, I know," and the woman falls into what seems to be madnessclimbing trees, collecting rocks, digging a pit in the middle of the forest, and screaming the name of Alyosha (which we eventually learn was the name of the boy's father). Meanwhile her dutiful son tries to protect her, at the cost of having to constantly leave his job. The segment is playful, magical, and poetic in its songs and poetry, and it suggests that insanity reigned supreme during the Cultural Revolution.
In the second episode, the scene shifts to southern China, where a mob chases Liang (Anthony Wong), a professor at the University of Shanghai, suspecting him of groping women at an outdoor movie, a story that raises issues of rule by mob during the Cultural Revolution. When Liang is beaten, he is comforted in the hospital by Dr. Lin (Joan Chen) who throws herself at him, telling him how much she loves him. For comfort, Liang turns to an old friend Tang, played by the director Wen Jiang. The sequence is raunchy, comic, and absurd, hinting at sexual repression during the 70s.
The scene then moves back to eastern China, where Tang and his wife meet the son of the widow who went mad in the first segment. The son is now a brigade leader and he welcomes the new couple who are following the government's plan for intellectuals to be relocated to perform manual labor in the countryside. Tang adapts to the village, making friends with the local children and going on pheasant hunts while blowing his bugle to provide hunting calls. Meanwhile his lonely wife makes love with the young brigade leader, who is prepared to die as a result. When Tang overhears his wife telling the boy that her husband says her belly is like velvet, he determines to kill the young man but is stopped by the boy's question, "What is velvet?" The last segment shifts to the magnificent Gobi Desert, where two girls cross the desert in search of their lovers. The segment takes us back twenty years to discover how the characters connect, but, as a love child is born amidst the flowers, the film ends on a note as elusive as its beginning.
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