A high school valedictorian who gets baked with the local stoner finds himself the subject of a drug test. The situation causes him to concoct an ambitious plan to get his entire graduating class to face the same fate, and fail.
the bad: there is a lack of a decent plot, the movie is more an assembly of different episodes that happened during the famine, told through the eyes of a former landlord and his family. Unfortunately most (if not all) of these episodes are cliché' and predictable (there is a pregnant woman, guess when she will deliver; there is a girl with a cat, guess what will happen to the cat; there are corrupt officials out to buy women for their own pleasure, guess who they will buy;). The episodes told are so many that there is no time to sympathise for a character, or at least that was my feeling. Most scene are a brutal graphic depiction of what hunger is, but I found it less involving than, for example, Fires on the Plain.
the good: the subject treated is historically important, especially the fact that the government was aware/unaware able/unable to do something to prevent this catastrophe. The action scenes (the bombing of civilians) are shot with mastery and makes you feel uncomfortable all the way through. What I found more interesting though (but haven't seen anybody pointing it out so far) is that Feng Xiaogang is indirectly (and very subtly, of course) criticising todays government. There are many parallels with what is happening now in China, the top leaders who lost touch with the people, corrupt officials who take money and women, foreigners who have to point out faults of officials, Chinese against Chinese with their insatiable hunger for wealth. Even the Japanese, though enemies, are depicted as more human than the Nationalist officials.
The Ugly: Tim Robbin's role, or the whole religious part for that matter. It doesn't add anything to the, already thin, plot. Also why Christians and not Buddhists or Daoists?
Overall it's an interesting movie to be watched, not only for the famine, but also as a new step for Chinese cinema becoming more international.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful.
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