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Year: 2002
UK: Artificial Eye Film Co
Cast: Wu Jun, Xin Bai Qing, Hu Jing Fan, Ye Xiao Keng, Lu Si Si
Director: Tian Zhuangzhuang
Country: China
Language: Mandarin (English subtitles)
UK: 116 mins
UK Certificate: PG contains mild emotional intensity
UK Release Date: 13 June 2003


An exquisite remake of Fei Mu's classic 40s drama, SPRINGTIME IN A SMALL TOWN is a stunning feature return from celebrated Chinese director Tian Zhuangzhuang (THE BLUE KITE), after a ten year absence. It was well received at the Venice Film Festival 2002, where it won international critical acclaim and was awarded the San Marco Prize for Best Film in the Upstream section of the festival; evidence enough that distinguished director Tian Zhuangzhuang has lost none of his craft.

Springtime, 1946, less than a year since the defeated Japanese troops withdrew from China. A young woman, Yumen (Hu Jing Fan), bored and frustrated by a loveless marriage to her invalid husband Dai Liyan (Wu Jun), languishes within the bomb damaged walls of a small town. The sound of the distant train whistle triggers thoughts of escape. One day, a charming stranger arrives from Shanghai, Zhang Zhichen (Xin Bai Qing), an old college friend of Dai Liyan. This unexpected house guest threatens to disrupt the foundations of their everyday lives. As tensions carefully mount, true feelings are suppressed as past secrets bubble to the surface.

Part of the first influx of students at the Beijing Film Academy when it reopened in 1978, Tian Zhuangzhuang became one of the leading figures of the 'Fifth Generation' of filmmakers. He rose to fame with HORSE THIEF (1985), a modern classic regarded as one of the cornerstone films of the 'Fifth Generation'. Made in Tibet, the film was denounced by the Beijing authorities. In and out of trouble with the authorities for most of his career, Tian was black listed for a year after making his best known film, the highly acclaimed THE BLUE KITE (1992). This part- autobiographical tale of a family growing up in the years leading to the Cultural Revolution, is still banned in China. His political comments have not been reserved to cinema, in 1989, Tian was the only film industry signatory to an open letter calling for the release of political prisoners.

With SPRINGTIME IN A SMALL TOWN, Tian's masterful direction alternates moments of calm and formality with scenes of temptation and tension. Sublime in its execution, Taiwanese cinematographer Mark Lee's (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE) elegant visuals and Cheng Guangming's atmospheric production design perfectly encapsulate the tangled passions of the central love triangle - magnificent performances by the newcomers - played out against the faded grandeur of a town that has barely survived the ravages of war and has no hint of the massive changes about to effect life in China forever.

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