TO LIVE
DIRECTOR: ZHANG YIMOU
COUNTRY: CHINA 1994
CINEMATOGRAPHY: LU YUE
MUSIC: ZHAO JIPING
CAST: Gong Li, Ge You
WRITTEN BY: Zhang Yimou
SUPER FEATURES: The story and the amazing acting support



TO LIVE, is a really sad film, but it has one thing going for it, that is hard to pass up. INNER STRENGTH.

It is, without a doubt, the most political of all the films that I have seen from this director, at least in that it
has no qualms saying so out front, and showing us what the case is.

It is the tragic story of a family's ordeal, through three generations of life in China, culminating in the present
day. And the series of events that have kept this woman alive is a bit on the amazing side, though she could easily
say that she has seen it all, and been through it all, from personal family tragedy, to one of the biggest tragedies
of the century, the people's revolution, in China in the sixties, whose look is now shown in a light that we had not
seen before, and not realized before.

And the bottom line is that the ideals of a revolution, or a person, very often do not have the care, or desire to
take care of the very people it is supposed to help, except the minds of the very few who are over eager to proove
their worth with their newly found power.

One could say that the story is simple to describe, but it isn't. About the only part that stands out, as massive, and
really a point that just turns one's stomach, is watching the young daughter having a baby right in the middle of the
60's revolution, and realizing that the hospital is being run by over eager young girls with no medical training of
any kind, and undoubtedly butchering just about anything and everything. The child survives and ends up telling us
the story. The mother is, basically, another victim of the revolution, even if accidentaly so.

And this was one of the major problems that this film had with Chinese authorities who did not like the suggestion
that Zhang Yimou was making, and detained the film for several months before an extra print was sneaked out through
Hong Kong. These scenes are hard to digest, and make you cry, even though they are shot, in very typical Yimou style,
with subtlety and care. The point, and I am sure that Zhang defended it to death with his accusers, is that the
revolution is fine, but what about the people, the victims, those who suffered needleesly.

All in all, it is really really hard not to like this film, and its incredibly poignant story. It never quits, and
refuses to give up at any time, which is something that I am sure many Chinese have endured for years under the severe
arms of a government, that is overdue for changes, and advances.

One thing is for sure, about Zhang Yimou. With so little resources for making any kind of film, he keeps turning out
piece after piece. Unfortunately he is on the chop block, and in danger almost all the time, being watched by an
overly sensitive government so concerned with its own appeal.... no corruption in there, hey.???

There are very few film makers that can do so much, with so little. The film is as simple as anyone can come, and yet,
conveys so much more than one can imagine. A tribute, no doubt to the care, detail, and depth of a man who knows what
he is doing, a true poet with a camera in his hands.

If strong films, merciless in a way, is what you like, this film is unlike any you have ever seen. And though it
travels rapidly from one day to the next, still its strength and political messages keep adding up. There aren't many
people that design film so well these days, and this is an amazing exception. Many use pointed symbols to get their
point across. Zhang Yimou, only has to tell his story and the rest just appears.

Outstanding acting work all around, and some of the best camera work ever done in any film, specially without all the
tools that make film so easy to make in a place like hollywood. A definite must see.

5 GIBLOONS

 

   

      

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