Friday, January 13, 2012

Classical Chinese FIlm Reivews (3) The Spring River Flows East (II)

During the time Zhongliang enjoys his upper class life with Lizhen, his father is killed by the Japanese commander in his hometown, and his mother, wife and son escape from his hometown in order not to be killed by Japanese soldiers. They become homeless and refuges from one place to another, living an unsettled life for a long time until the war ends.

Zhongliang goes back in Shanghai to continue his business there, and develops a secret relationship with Lizhen’s cousin sister, Wenyan. Meanwhile, Sufen becomes a maid of Wenyan’s house for living; otherwise, the couple never meet each other there. Until Lizhen returns to Shanghai, in a business party, Sufen finally recognizes Zhongliang. Zhongliang feels extremely embarrassed after being discovered his marriage. At the same time, he has to deal with the madness of Lizhen, the blame from his mother and his son, and the criticism from people around. After realizing Zhongliang’s betray is true and he will not come back, the hopeless and despairing Sufen suicides in the Huangpu River.

The film The Spring River Flows East not only details a story that might happen to a lot of Chinese families, but also pictures the severe, tough atmosphere of Chinese society during the war. Even though the war ends, people's life do not turn better due to the inflation after the war, the hard life of working class people and people’s betray to love, family and friendship in order to survive. The three parallel plots of the film make of the whole story, which is also three choices for people during and after the war. Zhongliang therefore represents people who give up their faith for living, while Sufen stand for the majority, who cannot choose their lives and only obey the flow of the society. The third life, which is not fully described in the film, is Zhongliang’s brother. He represents the life of people who insist on their faith and finally find out a way to live a happy life.

Besides, in a cinematic facet, this film is starred by mostly all the big stars in that era. The production design of the film is brilliant that even though it is black and white, you can almost feel the color and the atmosphere from every image. Every set is a picture of the life of people from different classes, shows delicate details suggesting people’s fashion and values. Therefore, the film is a miniature of Chinese people’s life in that special era. 

Chinese Classical Film Reivews (2) The Spring River Flows East (I)

A lot of Chinese classical films focus on the conflict life of working class people and upper class people. Described as an epic of Chinese film history, the film tells a tribulation of a family during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Zhongliang is the elder brother of the family, who attends the medic of the soldier after the war exploding to Shanghai. However, he has to leave his family in the countryside, including his wife Sufen and their new born son. His brother attends the army as well and marries a comrade girl, and keeps fighting for the motherland.

Unlike his brother, Zhongliang arrives in Hankou (inland China) and encounters a rich girl, Lizhen, who is fond of him for a long time. In order to survive in a severe war period, Zhongliang needs a rich person’s help. Therefore, Lizhen seems to be his only choice, but he has to conceal the fact that he has married and has a son. Falling in love with Lizhen, Zhongliang becomes the secretary of Lizhen’s godfather, a boss of several factories and they thus get married immediately.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chinese Classical Films Reviews (1): Long Live the Mistress

Tells a story of a typical Chinese family, the film Long Live the Mistress is about a traditional Chinese hostess who does her best to keep the whole family happy and harmonious. The Mistress marries the Mister for a year, but her wealthy father looks down on her office clerk husband. On the birthday of the Mister’s mother, the Mistress’s brother meets the Mister’s sister in the birthday party and they fall in love immediately. Simultaneously, the Mister visits the Mistress’s parents’ because he wants to borrow his father-in-law’s money, to help him build a company. However, his father-in-law is not willing to lend him any money and criticizes him for not working hard. After the Mister comes back home, he complains to the Mistress about her father’s callousness. Worrying about the Mister, the Mistress lies to her father that the Mister’s family is very rich so that her father can lend money to the Mister.

Everything changes since then. After building his own company, the Mister becomes smug and even raises a secret lover outside family. The Mistress is very sad after knowing all of these but she hides her sadness and pretends not believing the news from her brother, in order to help his husband save his face. Nonetheless, his company goes bankrupt and his secret lover quits the relationship afterwards. The Mistress asks for a divorce when her husband regrets a lot, especially what he has done to his wife. In the lawyer’s office, the couple both shows their love towards each other, making them realize that they still love each other. Finally the Mistress and the Mister make up again.

The film Long Live the Mistress was produced in 1947, by Wenhua Film Company, which was recognized as paying more attention to the artistic and aesthetic quality of cinema. It had produced the prominent Chinese film Spring in a Small Town. The famous film star, Shangguan Yunzhu (The Spring River Flows East), performed the lover of the Mister in the film. More importantly, the famous female writer, Zhang Ailing, wrote the script for the film. She stressed in the notes of Long Live the Mistress, “Long Live the Mistress describes a traditional Chinese Mistress, who represents a lot of average people. We are all familiar with her; maybe she lives downstairs and we can hear her cooking every day. She has her own sadness although she seems happy, but she still strives for life and tries her best to keep the whole family peaceful, just as the Mistress in the film.”

Long Live the Mistress reveals the deep influence of Hollywood classical cinema to Chinese movies. The storyline focusing on the life of middle class people rather than Chinese typical working class people, shows the trend of mimicking Hollywood. Secondly, the techniques that were usually used in classical Hollywood, such as close-up shots, extreme close-upshots and medium shots in the films (Picture 1 and Picture 2), in this regard, represent this influence on Chinese filmmaking. The triple-take gag in the beginning of the film (from the servant breaks the cup to the Mister’s mom finds it,) is an example of Hollywood typical style. The first part of the gag is Mister’s mother goes downstairs after hearing the sound of the broken cup, while the Mistress lies that the sound is from outside and she covers the broken cup pieces with the newspapers. The second part starts from the Mister’s mother takes the newspapers away while the Mistress hides the cup pieces under the cushion. Then the ending is when the Mister’s mother takes the cushion, she finally finds the cup pieces.

In a more historical and societal respect, Long Live the Mistress, discloses the people’s life during ROC (Republic of China) era, before PRC (People’s Republic of China). The film addresses several significant social events including the inflation during 1947-1949, the conflict between the traditional feudalism value and the western and modernist value, and the popularization of the modern technology such as airplane and radio. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dooman River

Chang-ho lives with his mute sister and grandfather at the border between North Korea and China. He once made friends with a Korean refugee who was around the same age with him. They bonded to play the soccer together. The two boys stroke a beautiful friendship until another North Korean escapee raped Chang-ho's sister. He imputed it on his North Korean boy and fought with him. However, his friend's father was caught by the Chinese police because of taking North Korea immigrants to China illegally. Chang-ho's friend thus reported the North Korea guy to the police and at the moment that the policeman was about to take the North Korea into the police car, Chang-ho climbed on the roof of a waste school and suicide. As a film stresses sensitive issue, Dooman River is different from its similar due to its narrative and distinctive perspective which leads the story into the average people's daily life, reflects the harsh life condition of North Korean and the tense relationship among the average people of  China, North Korea and South Korea instead of from a political perspective.

Suite Suite Chinatown

As an experimental film, Suite Suite Chinatown explains some typical situations which Chinese American usually have to experience when they try to adapt to the life in the United States. The film uses a parallel film style made up with separated fragments mirroring different aspects of the life of Chinese Americans. For example, the first segment about the animation of Chinese novel Journey To The West, mirrors the nostalgia of the Chinese culture; the learning Cantonese and mandarin section corresponds to the communication difficulty between the old Chinese immigrants dominating by the Cantonese speaking Chinese and the increasing Mandarin speaking new Chinese immigrants. When addressed why this film is named Suite Suite Chinatown, the reason is that most of Chinese American share the memory related to Chinatown in common, although many of them might not live there nowadays. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Slaying the Dragon

As a film to introduce Asian women in Hollywood films, Slaying the Dragon does a good job in tracking the representation of Asian women in Hollywood history and also the changes of the representation today. In Hollywood films, Asian women used to have the over-sexual and submissive images, which is from the Asian hookers who usually worked for American navy in 1960s during Vietnam War. Nonetheless, as time passed, the representation of Asian Women in Hollywood films change gradually to such as masculine martial arts girls. An example is Michelle Yeoh in James Bond Film; another prestigious case is Lucy Liu whose role is as equal as the other two girls in Love Kills. Nowadays, because of the popularization of social networking sites such as YouTube and the global capitalization, Asian Women's figures are changing both on cultural level and commercial level. Many Asian girls began to upload their video on YouTube, showing their westernization and their own opinions, differentiate themselves from the traditional impression of Asian women. On the other hand, as Asia plays an increasingly significant role in the global economy. As a result, Asian women begin to play more and more important roles in Hollywood films and their multiple aspects, including their life, their opinions and their professionalism.

Passion, when you do not have any income for your career, will you keep your passion?

The film is talking about the severe situation in which the Mongolia filmmakers are suffering. It is a documentary film which is tracing the history of Mongolia films. The whole story is around the filmmaker Binder Jigjid, son of Jigjid Dejid who was a pioneer of Mongolian cinema during the Communist era. Binder won several international film awards but had trouble to screen his low-budget films because his films are not market-driven commercial films. His independent films has to rely on his own publicity from one country to another country and earn very little money which is not enough to pay back for his loans. As a documentary film mirroring the struggling of artistic and independent Mongolia filmmakers, Passion claims respects towards them and represents the dissatisfaction towards the market economy driven film market. Just as what Binder said in the interview, "the society is driven by money, not art. People don't care about the film, they care about publicity."