I've just had the amazing good fortune to watch an important Chinese movie in all its cinema glory. I'm a film fan but pathetically handicapped about what I can watch and so the last full movie I saw was the awesome German Language 'Counterfeiters' on the flight from London to Shanghai in November last year. I'm back in love with movies after this because there is so much in this work that will help anyone trying to understand China, while at the same time telling a moving and relevant story.
It's quite a surprise that this film, And the spring comes - 立春 which is principally about artists and art in China, made it through the censors (SARFT) as although there are only a couple of scenes where the State reveals its ugly and invasive side the operatic leitmotif is pretty much that art is everything about truth and beauty the State has reason to fear the most. It's the unveiling of the human spirit in its purest and most uncontained form isn't it?
Aside from the homosexuality and sexual craving, even the mild partial nudity comes as a surprise in this movie after the recent blacklisting of Lust and Caution star Tang Wei from working in China. I found the operatic parts hugely moving with the end super bringing tears to my eyes. I don't want to say that its completely brilliant throughout as the narrative on occasions was a little patchy although sometimes deliberately so judging by the colour palette on the film poster
The photography, while good isn't say on a par with my favourite director Wong Kar Wai, although I think I could easily die quite happy if I expired while immersed in a scene from 'In The Mood For Love'. The colours in this film are a little washed out in the way that the light in Beijing really is most days. It's captured depressingly accurate, although when Beijing is unpolluted and shines it really does.
The lead actress Jiang Wenli is nothing less than a tour de force with one of the most powerful performances I've seen in a long time. She is married to the director Gu Changwei (Farewell my Concubine) and I understand put on considerable weight to fulfil this role. She acts so well that its difficult for other cast members to come across as better than average.
I want to give some additional thought to the scenes that I think are most important and so I'll probably come back with an update to this post but in the meantime here is a no subtitles clip from Tudou the Chinese version of Youtube and a strong urging that you try and see this important and definitive movie that encapsulates so much of what I love about the Chinese and yet why freedom of expression has yet to be fully understood and also why until it is fully embraced, movies like this will largely be a rare exception. More here too.