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Yang guang can lan de ri zi (1994)
I'm very down to earth about Chinese films. There's a few good ones like Suzhou River and Zhang Yimou's 'Huozhe' (Life). The rest I find to be overly catered for Western tastes, i.e. plenty of peasants and moralising tales of how bad Communism was for the tiny minority of privileged intellectuals.
This film is definitely an exception. It is about a boy growing up in the Cultural Revolution, but shows the era with a kind of nostalgia that perhaps may be somewhat alien to the Western psyche. If you really want to learn something about how China experienced 'the Sixties,' then watch this if you can get a hold of it.
On the down side, this film appears to be almost completely unavailable. If anyone knows of a DVD or video release anywhere, it would be much appreciated.
Xiao cheng zhi chun (2002)
Not very impressed. Its difficult to offer any spoilers to this film, because there is almost no development in the plot. Everything becomes clear in the first ten minutes and from there on its like watching paint dry. The acting seems very poor as well, and reminds me of the old black and white Maoist era films shown occasionally on daytime Chinese television. Although this is difficult to tell with the female role, Yuwen, as the story seems to only require her walking round like a wooden mannequin. It reminds me of fading star Gong Li who somehow got a reputation as a good actress in the West for having a scowl on her face all the time.
Tian Zhuangzhuang's film the 'Blue Kite' was a far better film. But don't be fooled by the fact that Springtime in a Small Town was set in the late '40s. Unlike the Blue Kite, the fact that this film is set in a time of upheaval is irrelevant to the plot itself, the ruins of the town seem to be nothing more than a scenic backdrop.
I wonder whether Tian Zhuangzhuang is simply trying to ride on the popularity of Chinese films in the West and appeal to a foreign audience who can't tell the difference between a film that is 'beautiful' 'profound' or 'hypnotic' and one that is simply tedious and insubstantial.
If any film fits the description of 'overrated,' this is it. I see no reason here to stop worrying about the state of the Chinese film industry.