Monday, October 25, 2010

山楂树之恋 Shan zha shu zhi lian (Under the Hawthorn Tree)

An unbelievable beautiful film by one of my favorite Chinese directors Zhang Yimou about a theme that I have never seen before in his films: Classic Pure Love. Not only the theme is new (for me) but also the film is very different to his previous ones as does not have his grandiose cinematic style or the outstanding cinematography. BUT this is a film about performances and you have no idea how extraordinary is first time acting Dongyu Zhou performing city girl Jing Qiu that slowly, very-slowly, falls for handsome young Lao San (Shawn Dou). It’s such a beautiful love story that I’m afraid will have to label the film –from a western point of view- as a girly film that I’m sure women will love while some men will not.

Seems that Zhang Yimou is exploring new territories as his previous film, San qiang pai an jing qi (A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop aka A Simple Noodle Story), also seems to have a different style; haven’t seen the film yet (yes, dying to see it) but at least from photos and trailer I can say that has some of his master filmmaker trademarks like amazing use of colors, epic scenes and extraordinary use of cinematography , which Under the Hawthorn Tree does not have at all. BUT because of story the storytelling technique Yimou’s used in this film absolutely succeeds to make an intense story out of what could have been a very common and often told story.

Still story allows us a brief vision of what some Chinese lived during China’s Cultural Revolution and how some policies affected their everyday lives. Set in 1975 in a small village in Yichang City, Hubei Province story tells about a pure, moving and teary (yes, I cried) love story between Jing Qiu and Lao San during their “zhiqing” days towards the end of the Cultural Revolution. Zhinqing refers to young urban dwellers that were sent to the countryside during the turbulent decade, from 1966 to 1976. Jing Qiu’s family has a difficult life after her father was labeled as right-winger and imprisoned; but when she meets Lao San, who has a promising future because of his high-ranking military officer father, her life becomes really complicated as she starts to risk what’s left of a possible future for a girl with her background. Lovely story adapted from a novel by Ai Mi.

If you’re expecting a ‘normal’ Zhang Yimou movie please be advised that this film is not; consequently could disappoint many or could positively highly surprise you like happened to me as is such a lovely and beautiful film that, honestly, is not easy to digest that was done by master filmmaker Zhang Yimou, but it is.

I do strongly recommend the movie but I think is the kind of film that you have to watch when you’re in a ‘special’ mood; a mood that allows you to enjoy the story that yes, has a very sad ending and surely you will shred more than a few tears.


Watch trailer @MOC

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