Love in the time of aus­ter­ity

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - CINEMA - TARABRADY

SPRING IN A SMALL TOWN Di­rected by Fei Mu. Star­ring Wei Wei, Zhang Hong­mei Club, IFI, Dublin, 85 min

Now re­garded as one of the great­est films to emerge from pre-Com­mu­nist China, this mar­i­tal melo­drama had few ad­mir­ers on ei­ther side of the Chi­nese Civil War. In­deed, Fei Mu’s 1948 de­pic­tion of a love tri­an­gle dis­ap­peared from pub­lic circulation for decades, only to re-emerge with Bei­jing’s Fifth Gen­er­a­tion di­rec­tors, a group who ap­pre­ci­ated the old mas­ter’s flair with pe­riod cos­tumes and wist­ful hero­ines.

Gram­mat­i­cally, Spring in a Small Town al­ter­nates be­tween pained close-up and in­ner mono­logue. Yuwen (Wei Wei), the film’s hero­ine, is trapped in a love­less mar­riage to Liyan , a TB af­flicted in­valid who spends his days in the ru­ined court­yard of what was once a stately fam­ily home. Nei­ther is happy: Yuwen laments that she doesn’t have the courage to die; her hus­band lacks the courage to live.

When Liyan’s old pal Zhang, a doc­tor, comes to visit, he im­me­di­ately at­tracts the flir­ta­tious at­ten­tions of Liyan’s younger sis­ter. We know, how­ever, that his heart be­longs else­where: Liyan is un­aware that his friend was en­gaged to Yuwen be­fore the war.

The un­adorned, pre-in­sti­tu­tional sto­ry­telling makes for a far more com­pelling view­ing than Tian Zhuangzhuang’s 2002 glossy re­make. The lat­ter has nuance, but au­then­tic­ity trumps her­itage. Fei Mu’s film, like its char­ac­ters, is caught be­tween an an­cient so­ci­ety de­stroyed by the sec­ond World War and the in­com­ing new world or­der, a hin­ter­land con­veyed by Wei Wei’s won­der­fully ex­pres­sive face.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.