Spring in a Small Town
Film - Feature | September 30 | 8 p.m. | Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Named a formative influence by filmmakers like Wong Kar-wai and Zhang Yimou, voted the best Chinese film of all time in a poll of Chinese critics, and with a visual panache often compared to Ophuls, Antonioni, and Welles, Fei Mus 1948 gem possesses a melancholy beauty all its own. In the ruins of a bombed-out country estate, a sorrowful husband lives in the past, while his beautiful wife pines for something, anything, to change. I dont have the courage to die, she whispers in the films mesmeric, noirish voice-over, and he doesnt have the courage to live. As in many a noir, the arrival of an outsiderone known to both husband and wifemay change everything. Made a year before Maos Peoples Republic of China was proclaimed, the films beauty exists both in timemany elements seem drawn from Hollywood noir and the glory years of Shanghai cinema, while its languorous tracking shots rival the best of Ophulsand utterly out of time, with a romantic splendor and a remarkable sense of melancholy capable of surprising even the most jaded contemporary filmgoer. The fact that the film was quickly hidden away after its debut, condemned as counterrevolutionary and embodying petit-bourgeois decadence, merely adds to the films mystique; it was finally rediscovered in the 1980s.
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