On Dry Well Lane in Beijing in 1953, Chen Shujuan and Lin Shaolong marry. A year later their son, nicknamed Tietou (Iron Head), is born. The Party is everywhere: Mao’s photograph, loud-speaker announcements, visits from the neighborhood committee. Shaolong dies in a reform camp; a close family friend, who protects Shujuan and her son partly out of guilt for lying to authorities about Shaolong, succumbs to malnutrition; a confrontation with the Red Guard leads to injury, imprisonment and death. Shujuan’s love for Tietou sustains her, and the child’s blue kite embodies hope: “I can make another for you,” says Tietou’s dad; by the end, Tietou promises this to a small child.
Tian began as an amateur photographer and as an AC at the Beijing Agricultural Film Studio. He graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 1982, together with a cohort of Fifth Generation directors which included Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou. One of Tian’s most renowned works is The Horse Thief: like many of his early works, it is about ethnic minorities in China, and American director Martin Scorsese named it as his favorite film of the 1980s. Tian’s work has also drawn fire from the Chinese government, especially The Blue Kite, a film about the adverse effects of Communist rule: the Hundred Flowers Movement, the Great Leap Forward and especially the Cultural Revolution. Footage of The Blue Kite was smuggled out of the country; Tian has denied complicity in the act. After a hiatus of some nine years, he returned with a critically acclaimed remake of Fei Mu’s famous film Spring in a Small Town (1948), often referred to in English as Springtime in a Small Town (2002) to differentiate it… read more
an excursus into chinese history of the '50s and the '60s rollercoaster revolution, going in parallel with the growing up of a boy which family experiences the consequences of that turbulent era. sensitive and rigorous cinema, with great photography and music carpet accompainying the images.
One of those insufferable 90's-era "foreign films" that revolves around some object usually associated with a color, that represents either hope or freedom in some oppressive regime. The VHS box is usually plastered with wreaths, stars and bold letters and over a picture of the main character(s) interacting with said object or relishing in happier times. Critics will praise the film's courage and austere quality.
Film is so much more than its formal elements. This one for example depicts the real struggles of real people during real political upheavals in China. It dared to speak out against a system that had left most of China silent and afraid, during a time when any such criticism was still absolutely taboo. Maybe you only find it 'insufferable" because you can't or don't want to imagine film as having any value other than the aesthetic--l'art pour l'art is truly a very limiting and sad attitude. Art can and should have bearing on reality and this one does.