China in the 1920's. After her father's death, nineteen year old Songlian is forced to marry Chen Zuoqian, the lord of a powerful family. Fifty year old Chen has already three wives, each ... See full summary »
Fengyun ernü - no easy viewing, but historically important
The title entry should have the ü dots in "ernü" (sons and daughters) - it might be translated as "Sons and Daughters in Stormy Weather".
It starts, as often in that period, with student life in Shanghai. Two boys sharing a room; one floor below, a girl (A-Feng) with her mother; and the usual landlady insisting on regular rent payment.
The mother gets sicker and sicker; the boys send her to a hospital, where she soon dies. As the girl can't afford the rent, the boys invite her to move in with them. (That must have been very risqué in 1935 China..) The next morning, one boy is missing, but the newspaper (shown ideally well-informed several times in this film) reports that he was involved in a bombing, and has escaped. So Baihua, the hero, decides his room is unsafe, and goes searching for a place to stay, finally ending with a rich girl he met before, who takes hold of him.
The next morning he reads in the newspapers that he is also under suspicion, so they decide to take a ship to Qingdao. A-Feng comes home, finds the room ransacked, and joins a traveling song & dance troupe so she can return to her Grandpa up north-west. And much more ensues... :) The biggest spoiler isn't so much one - this leftist drama ends with the heroic people marching and singing Nie Er's March of the Volunteers. This song was declared the National Anthem of the PRC in 1949, officially in the constitution in 2004, and will be heard not so rarely at the upcoming 2008 Olympics.
If I've whetted your appetite so far, let me caution. Image and sound quality is quite uneven, and sound must have been a big difficulty then. Consider: Baihua and the rich girl sit on location at Qingdao beach; when they start to talk, the backdrop suddenly is a weakly painted matte seascape (on a sound stage, I suppose); seconds later, the real sea is back.
But still, this is a jolly good yarn, with memorable images (e.g. A-Feng's hot pants in her solo song in Qingdao...), so if you can stand archive quality (as opposed to "digitally remastered"), you might feel the same fascination as me.
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