Springtime In A Small Town

A beautiful, slow-motion melodrama from Tian Zhuangzhuang, director of THE HORSE THIEF and THE BLUE KITE, and a leading light in China's cinematic rebirth during the 1980s and '90s. The year is 1946 and the setting is a small town in southern China, decimated by a long war that's only just ended. Zhang Zhichen (Xin Baiqing), a doctor, returns to his hometown...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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A beautiful, slow-motion melodrama from Tian Zhuangzhuang, director of THE HORSE THIEF and THE BLUE KITE, and a leading light in China's cinematic rebirth during the 1980s and '90s. The year is 1946 and the setting is a small town in southern China, decimated by a long war that's only just ended. Zhang Zhichen (Xin Baiqing), a doctor, returns to his hometown after following the "war of resistance" around China, and pays a visit to his ailing friend Dai Liyan (Wu Jun). Refugees for eight years, Liyan, his wife, Yuwen (Hu Jingfan), and Liyan's little sister, Xiu (Lu Sisi), have themselves just recently returned to the Dai family home. The house is one of the few that wasn't reduced to rubble by Japanese bombs, but Zhichen is more surprised by the revelation that his good friend has married Yuwen, Zhichen's childhood sweetheart. It's obvious to Zhichen that Liyan is very ill with symptoms resembling those of tuberculosis, and it doesn't take Zhang long to sense that there's a deeper ailment afflicting the Dai household. When she's not crying in her room, Yuwen spends hours alone at the market or strolling along the wall that encircles the ancient city; at night she sleeps alone. Her arranged marriage to a man who treats her well but whom she doesn't love has left her passive and deeply unhappy; when Zhichen finally asks her why she married Liyan instead of going away with him before the war, she talks of her current obligations to her sick husband, even though his illness has made him strange. Liyan admits that he's failed to make his wife happy and acknowledges that she should have married Zhichen instead, but what's past is past; he proposes Zhichen live with them until Xiu is of marriageable age — an arrangement that throws Yuwen into a jealous tailspin. Dedicated to "China's pioneering filmmakers," Tian's first film in nearly ten years is actually a remake of a long unseen 1948 social drama by Fei Mu, a prerevolutionary Chinese director whose "counterrevolutionary" work had been driven into obscurity during the Cultural Revolution. It's a fitting tribute that effectively evokes a brief moment of calm springtime between two tumultuous seasons: the long and brutal war with Japan, and the Mao's rapidly approaching revolution.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A beautiful, slow-motion melodrama from Tian Zhuangzhuang, director of THE HORSE THIEF and THE BLUE KITE, and a leading light in China's cinematic rebirth during the 1980s and '90s. The year is 1946 and the setting is a small town in southern China, decima… (more)

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