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Sha he bei ge (2000)

To achieve his dream of being a trumpet player, a man leaves his hometown and works in a touring operetta troupe. He falls in love with a girl but then contracts tuberculosis, forcing him to give up the trumpet.


Chi-Yung Chang


Zhang-Lun Chen (as Yixiong Chen), Shi-sheng Chi (story) | 2 more credits »
6 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »


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Credited cast:
Yao-nung Huang Yao-nung Huang ... Wei-long
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Mei-Ling Chao Mei-Ling Chao
Shu-shen Hsiao
Chen-Nan Tsai
Jing Tseng Jing Tseng


To achieve his dream of being a trumpet player, a man leaves his hometown and works in a touring operetta troupe. He falls in love with a girl but then contracts tuberculosis, forcing him to give up the trumpet.

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Release Date:

24 June 2000 (Taiwan) See more »

Also Known As:

Lament of the Sand River See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Central Motion Pictures See more »
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User Reviews

Musical story in the New Wave tradition
27 February 2006 | by gmwhiteSee all my reviews

Lament of the Sand River is the second film I have seen from the Taiwanese director Chang Chi-Yung. There other was 'Such A Life', which was a sad evocation of the poverty lived in by some Taiwanese during the sixties. This film seems to be set in the fifties, and follows Wen-Long (or Bun Liong as he is called in Taiwanese), who leaves home to join a traveling opera troupe. Along the way he contracts tuberculosis, and he is faced with the challenge of finding another job.

Mild Spoilers ahead The film begins with two important scenes: The first is where Bun Liong hides his trumpet behind his back when he meets his father outside the front gate of his house. His father is a tyrannical figure whose shadow hangs over the entire family. The second scene is where Bun Liong enters the house to discover that his family is giving away a baby to a couple from Taipei. The family's poverty will be another pivotal point in the film. In Bun Liong, then, we find a character who is trying to free himself from both poverty, and the brutal domination of his father (perhaps a symbol of patriarchal authority). He chooses the life of the musician, in obvious rejection of his father's wishes, but poverty is harder to escape, especially as a performer. Playing with the traveling opera troupe (and also in wine-houses), he makes enough to send home, but is largely unable to visit personally. He also forges friendships with other musicians, as well as the troupe manager, an actress, and later, a young woman from his hometown, demonstrating again that it is easier to escape an oppressive ideology than the fact of poverty, which follows him in the form of his illness. This, at least to me, seems to be the main theme of the film.

Mild Spoilers ended Since the main character is a musician, we see him playing trumpet, clarinet and saxophone in various styles and in various places. We are also treated to pieces of traditional opera (which was, interestingly, also shown in another film from the same director, Such a Life - perhaps it is an interest of his). As usual, the acting is in a naturalistic style, and the actors all give solid performances. As with Such a Life, the director has been careful to recreate the period, though the themes are broadly applicable to more than just the Taiwanese context. Once again, Taiwanese is spoken, though there are some portions in Mandarin.

Very much in the vein of the New Wave films from Hou (especially his early, rural films), Lament of the Sand River is at once an accurate time- (and space-) capsule, even while dealing with issues that the rest of the world can relate to. In the last shot of the film, there even appears a kind of allusion in reverse to the tunnel-shot at the beginning of Hou's Dust in the Wind. Since it fits so neatly into that particular genre, I would naturally recommend it to anyone interested in Taiwanese films, especially if looking for an heir to early Hou Hsiao Hsien. It is a serious film, but worthwhile.

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