“Change has wiped out my memories. I can’t tell what’s imagined from what’s real” (from the prologue to In the Heat of the Sun). One central obsession, time, preoccupies all of the greatest Chinese language films of the ‘90s. Each of these films in some way makes the most radical demands on our experience of temporality, exposes the ideological underpinnings of our preconceptions about time, and insists on a vision of breathtaking, liberating alternatives. Although it played in a few film festivals, In the Heat of the Sun remains largely unknown outside of China. Jiang Wen (contemporary mainland Chinese cinema’s greatest actor, in his first film as director) and writer Wang Shuo (the cynical “bad boy” of new Chinese literature) collaborated on this 1994 feature about coming-of-age in 1970s Beijing. A cast made up largely of young teenagers (Xia Yu as Jiang Wen’s alter-ego “Monkey” is simply astonishing, and young film idol Ning Jing does the best work of her career to date) portrays what it might have been like to be young, privileged, and completely unfettered in a Beijing largely depopulated of adult authority figures by Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The film’s politics, though, are implied — mere shadows on its margins. Jiang’s camera, wandering at will through space, and tracking and backtracking through time, embodies an absolute freedom just out of reach of the film’s principals. Ostensibly a nostalgia film about the Cultural Revolution’s “good old days”, this film is much more: a self-consciously post-modern, post-“fifth generation” dismantling of the modern Chinese realist film; an ironic, romance-drenched interrogation of the possibility of eros and passion in a totalitarian era; and a meditation on the traps and opportunities afforded by creative mis-remembering. —chinesecinemas.org
Jiang Wen (born January 5, 1963) is a Chinese film actor and director. Born in Tangshan, Hebei province into an army family, he shifted to Beijing at the age of 6. In 1980, Wen entered China’s foremost acting school, the Central Academy of Drama, graduating in 1984. That same year he started acting both on the stage (with the China Youth Theater) and in films.
After appearing in many television serials and films, Jiang became renowned in China for his starring role in the 1992 TV series Beijingers in New York, which made him one of the best-loved actors of his generation. In addition to these he also starred in Hibiscus Town (1984, directed by Xie Jin), Black Snow (1990, directed by Xie Fei), The Emperor’s Shadow (1996, directed by Zhou Xiaowen) and The Soong Sisters (1997). Other than Red Sorghum, Jiang also collaborated with Zhang Yimou for his 1997 film Keep Cool.
Jiang wrote and directed his first film in 1994, In the Heat of the Sun, adapted from a novel by Wang Shuo… read more