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To Live (1994)

Huo zhe (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, War | 16 December 1994 (USA)
After Fugui and Jiazhen lose their personal fortunes, they raise a family and survive difficult cultural changes during 1940s to 1970s China.

Director:

Yimou Zhang

Writers:

Wei Lu (screenplay), Hua Yu (novel) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 7 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview:
You Ge ... Xu Fugui
Li Gong ... Xu Jiazhen
Ben Niu Ben Niu ... Town Chief
Wu Jiang ... Wan Erxi
Deng Fei Deng Fei ... Xu Youqing
Tao Guo ... Chunsheng
Tianchi Liu Tianchi Liu ... Xu Fengxia, as an adult
Zongluo Huang Zongluo Huang ... Fu Gui's Dad
Yanjin Liu Yanjin Liu ... Fu Gui's Mom
Dahong Ni ... Long'er
Lian-Yi Li Lian-Yi Li ... Sgt. Lao Quan
Cong Xiao Cong Xiao ... Xu Fengxia, as a teenager
Lu Zhang Lu Zhang ... Fengxia, as a child
Yan Su
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Storyline

Fugui and Jiazhen endure tumultuous events in China as their personal fortunes move from wealthy landownership to peasantry. Addicted to gambling, Fugui loses everything. In the years that follow he is pressed into both the nationalist and communist armies, while Jiazhen is forced into menial work. They raise a family and survive, managing "to live" from the 40's to the 70's in this epic, but personal, story of life through an amazing period. Written by docraven

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

China | Hong Kong

Language:

Mandarin

Release Date:

16 December 1994 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

To Live See more »

Filming Locations:

China

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$32,900, 20 November 1994

Gross USA:

$2,332,728

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$2,332,728
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby | Dolby SR

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Director Zhang Yimou was banned from filmmaking for 2 years by the Chinese government as a result of making this film. See more »

Quotes

Xu Fugui: If Youqing does as daddy says, our lives will get better and better. Our family is like a little chicken. When it grows up, it becomes a goose and that will turn into a sheep. The sheep will turn into an ox.
Xu Youqing: And after the ox?
Xu Fugui: After the ox is Communism, and there will be dumplings and meat every day.
See more »

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User Reviews

An All-Time Top Ten Film
15 June 2002 | by intuitive7See all my reviews

This is Zhang Yimou's and Gong Li's crowning triumph -- a top candidate for the greatest Chinese film of all time. Splendidly photographed and composed, consumately acted and faithfully scored, "To Live" is a three or four hour film novel lovingly packed into two hours and fifteen minutes. For a long time, Ingmar Bergman's "Fanny and Alexander" stood by itself as the greatest family epic in my moviegoing experience. "The Best Years of Our Lives" ran a distant second. But since 1995 "To Live" has moved into a very close second.

Most Chinese who lived through Mao's Revolution say this film tells it like it was at the simple townsperson level. Though it can serve as an overview of Chinese history 1944 to 1970 or so, unlike Lean's "Gandhi" or "Lawrence of Arabia", this is not a hero's biopic. Instead we see a foolish, once rich but now fallen heir and his wife blown about by the winds of fortune for three decades and challenged as parents trying to raise two children under increasingly harsh and punitive communist tyranny. What you sense in this film, that I've never seen before in any Chinese film, is how the ethical and moral principles that have prevailed in Chinese culture for 2500 years - a mix of transcendence and pragmatism, humility and grit, cosmic harmonic balance and social duty - allows an ordinary couple to accept unbearable tragedy and keep going. It also shows what this survival strategy costs them in their Communist context. The screenplay is full of cosmic irony. It makes us aware, without shouting, that this is just one family among millions. As Yimou's transitional screen message says: "...leaving no family unaffected". It is to that extent, a tribute film.

Maybe ten hours of Kieslowski's "Decalogue" might accomplish the same broad survey of of human happenstance and emotion. Maybe Kurosawa in three or four hours. But never in two plus hours have I seen the scope Zhang Yimou achieves here. "To Live" also contains as wise a moral lesson as any film I've seen, and it's a gentle one despite the surrounding violence. I couldn't paraphrase the lesson for you. I wouldn't try. Just watch. It will reach you non-verbally in about 90 minutes. Just know, this isn't Shakespeare, Hollywood or soap opera. It's something else.

Gong Li's work is as powerful as anything Streep or Sarandon have ever done in the west - which is all the more inspiring since the camera doesn't lavish star-level attention on her. As her husband, Ge You turns in an emotionally riveting, charming, sometimes funny and devastatingly honest performance. The direction is sure handed, the shooting unfailingly gorgeous. Zhang Yimou's cinematic canvass has never been so big or his palette so colorful and controlled. Full of spectacle, great sweeps of time and onrushing tides of humanity, "To Live" is still, in the end, a sweet and poignant epic with an intimate, observant heart. Great story telling. Do not miss! Try to view a letterbox version on a big screen.


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