Chen Kaige is one of China’s most prominent and influential directors, and perhaps the central figure in China’s Fifth Generation of filmmakers. Born Chen Aige in Beijing, he was the son of noted director Chen Huaiai, who directed a number of popular films during the 1950s and 1960s. As the chaos of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution was gathering steam, Chen, a 15-year-old member of the notorious Red Guard, publicly denounced his father. He later partially reenacted that day during the heartbreaking climax of Farewell, My Concubine (1989). During the late ‘60s, he was sent to labor in a rubber plantation in southwestern Yunnan province. Later, he served in the army but remained in the area. In 1975, as Mao’s reign was drawing to a close, Chen returned to his hometown to work at the Beijing Film Processing Laboratory. Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaopeng, set about undoing much of the destruction of Mao’s bloody final decade, which included opening the nation’s schools and academies. In 1978… read more
In comparison to many films that are lazily shoved into the "transcendent cinema" category, it was surprisingly fast paced and accessible. Despite occasionally having personal emotions expressed in folk songs, it holds quite an objective perception of the characters. Including the unmodernised north and "pre-Mao progressive" south, that you eventually realise is a stinker of a false dichotomy.