A pregnant peasant woman seeks redress from the Chinese bureaucracy after the village chief kicks her husband in the groin in this comedy of justice. As she is frustrated by each level of ...
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A pregnant peasant woman seeks redress from the Chinese bureaucracy after the village chief kicks her husband in the groin in this comedy of justice. As she is frustrated by each level of the hierarchy and travels farther and farther away from the countryside the viewer is also provided with a look at the changing Chinese society through the verite camera used in most scenes.Written by
Keith Loh <email@example.com>
This is a story about saving face and winning face, and what can happen if you carry things too far. Gong Li stars as Qiu Ju, a peasant woman with child whose husband is kicked in the groin by the local chief. She wants an apology. The chief of course will not apologize since he would then lose face. Both are stubborn and obstinate. Proud and determined, Qiu Ju steers her way through the bureaucracy from the village to the district to the city; but the thing she desires, an apology from the chief, eludes her. He cannot apologize because he has only sired daughters. He has license (he believes in his heart) because he was insulted by her husband who said he raised "only hens."
The Chinese locales, from village roads to big city avenues are presented with stunning clarity so that the color and the sense of life is vivid and compelling. Director Zhang Yimou. forces us to see. From the opening shot of the mass of people in the city walking toward us (out of which emerges Qiu Ju) to the feast celebrating the child's first month of life near the end, we feel the humanity of the great mass of the Chinese people.
In a sense this is a gentle satire of the bureaucratic state that modern China has become. But Zhang Yimou emphasizes the bounty of China and not its poverty. There is a sense of abundance with the corn drying in the eaves, the sheets of dough being cut into noodles, the fat cows on the roads and the bright red chili drying in the sun. There is snow on the ground and the roads are unpaved, but there is an idyllic feeling of warmth emanating from the people. One gets the idea that fairness and tolerance will prevail.
In another sense, this is a parable about the price of things and how that differs from what is really of value. So often is price mentioned in the movie that I can tell you that a yuan at the time of the movie was worth about a dollar in its buying power. (Four and a half yuan for a "pound" of chili; five yuan as a fair price for a short cab ride; twenty yuan for a legal letter.) Getting justice in the strict sense is what Qiu Ju demands. Her affable husband would settle for a lot less. He is the wiser of the two. Notice how Qiu Ju is acutely sensitive to price. She bargains well and avoids most of the rip offs of the big city. But what is the value of being a member of the community? This is a lesson she needs to learn, and, as the movie ends, she does.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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