Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Xiao cheng zhi chun (Spring in a Small Town) (1948)

Today's film is Spring in a Small Town, and it was released in China one year before the Communist Revolution.   It shows the devastation after the second Sino-Japanese War and a rare glimpse of life before Communism took over.  Still, it is a universal tale of love, jealousy, and loyalty.

Yuwen lives with her husband and his 16-year-old sister, Xiu.  Her husband, Liyan, believes he is seriously ill with tuberculosis, but nobody else buys it since he has no symptoms.  (Yes, latent tb shows no symptoms, but he wouldn't act sick if this were the case.)  His sister and his wife think he's suffering from a mental problem, probably since he's depressed about the state of the house and his family.  His family's home was mostly destroyed in the war and he feels responsible for ruining the family's fortune.  He sounds depressed, which can explain why he feels tired and sick.

One day, Yuwen's childhood friend, Zhang Zhichen, comes to visit. He has come to visit her husband and has not realized that Yuwen married him.  Yuwen, being forced to live in a loveless marriage, is torn between her old feelings for Zhichen and her loyalty to her husband.  Liyan is at first oblivious to this and even asks Yuwen to talk about setting up his sister with him.  But after a party, he realizes the truth.  Much drama happens.

In 2005, the Hong Kong Film Awards Association declared this film the "greatest Chinese film ever made".  That is definitely a stretch.  If I were to name the top ten best Chinese films, I wouldn't have considered this one.  It's almost like a Lifetime movie.  There are no new ideas present, sets are minimal, acting feels stiff, and it is overall predictable.  It's an okay film, but it's not the greatest film of anything.  I will give it a 5/10.

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