“Old Well” is the ironic name of a village in the Taihang Mountains—ironic, because two centuries of digging for water have found nothing but dry rock. The film centers on the first scientific attempt to dig a well, supervised by the village’s first university graduate, a young man (Zhang Yimou) who comes home and finds his life pulled every which way by the conflicting pressures of tradition and modernization. —Tony Rayns
An important figure in China’s “Fourth Generation”, Wu Tianming also served as mentor to such “Fifth Generation” directors as Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige and Tian Zhuangzhuang while heading the Xi’an Film Studio. Born in 1939, Wu developed an early interest in the theater and worked odd jobs at local playhouses in order to observe the actors at work. By the time he reached his teens, however, he had shifted interest to motion pictures, crediting Dovzhenko’s “Poem of the Sea” (1958) as the primary impetus for his filmmaking career. But he first put in time as a stage actor and, after 1960, a film player with Xi’an Film Studio. Six years later, he was on the way to realizing his dream of attending the Beijing Film Academy but the stirrings of the Cultural Revolution derailed those plans as his father, a local government official, was purged from his post and imprisoned.
In the early 1970s, as the thaw began, Wu finally enrolled at the Beijing Film Academy and began his career in earnest… read more