DIRECTOR: CHEN KAIGE
COUNTRY: CHINA 1984
CINEMATOGRAPHY: ZHANG YIMOU
MUSIC: ZHAO JIPING
CAST: Xue Bai, Gu Qing, Tan Tuo, Liu Qiang
SUPER FEATURES: Beautiful countryside...
It is always obvious when a film tries to lure people with a political philosophy. If it is historical, then the film has an excuse. In this case it was produced by the government. And like France, it loves to sing the praises of its services.
YELLOW EARTH, is a very nice film, despite the fact that it is a plug for the Communist China we know today. But
in a time when those who lived in the far off regions, in the year 1939, even the communist regime is a hope for a new life, a better life, something which the isolated peoples do not have.... the old life promises of the young daughter as a dowry for the poor family looms as a doomed institution, as a perfect metaphor for the did-illusion with the old system, and embracing the values of the new system, which allows women some independence, and much more of their choice.
This is actually a beautifully filmed piece of work, and much of it may go to the gentleman who became a very well known director, ZHANG YIMOU, whose style is very simetrical and meticulous. The camera does move a little, but mostly is forces us to look at the details in the scenery.
The story is of a family that lives in an isolated area, that gets visited by a soldier, who claims to be looking for some singers for his army group, which entertains the people. And he gets a chance to talk about the new things in the 'new country'. At the same time the young girl is already scared of becoming another victim of the ugly old system that gives the little girls away as payment, for the feudal lords who claim them. The older sister's marriage was not a good one. But the father had to give away his young daughter when the mother died so he could bury her. While this hurts him, it is all he could do to offer the mother a burial. The beautiful young daughter sings very well (outstanding music and voice work.... very dreamy) and is becoming a prime candidate for the old system style of marriage. She takes upon herself to leave the old system behind as the film slows to an end, and we hear her voice singing of her new hoped for future.
Were it not for the politics, which are really minimal in this film, it might have been better received and seen. Unfortunately, as a symbol of the bad old system, and having to say that the new one is a good system, even in a
romantic atmosphere, is a bit strange for an american audience to accept and work with. But it is a nice film.
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