Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Springtime in a Small Town (2002)

Chinese title: 小城之春

Springtime in a Small Town (2002), Chinese period drama
This movie is a remake of 1948's Spring in a Small Town. It's renamed 'Spring' to 'Springtime' to fix the unintentional sprouting and the bouncing hiccups in the title caused by richness of the English language.

This is 1 of the several Chinese directors (in this list) who was banned from directing for some years in Mainland China for making The Blue Kite. Officially 3 years, but Tian didn't make another film after some 10 years.

Springtime is a pretty safe bet because it criticises the issues of a bygone era that otherwise known as Republican Era. The leftover feudal traditions in this period were severely criticised by the Communist party. So any movie that sheds a negative light on this period like this 1 will get a keen green light from the Film Bureau, who's the censorship body in China.

Like Raise the Red Lantern, this film tackles issues that were residual from the feudal Qing dynasty. Issues like polygamy in Raise the Red Lantern, or in this case the feudal tradition of arranged marriage. Of course, this movie deals with many more themes other than arranged marriage. But it lies in the heart of this triangular romance.

In this Republican period drama the clash of the old and the new is more subtle. Zichen in his modern clothing and man of the world obvious represents the new while Liyan and Luwen wore traditional clothes reflecting their traditional attitudes. There's no generational gap, or should I say, the generation gap exists in the same generation because of the cultural gap, which in terms caused by the abrupt changes in the Chinese society in a single generation. Something similar are happening today.

My attention is as short as a typical 21st century man. So I was surprise that despite the slow pacing of this drama, I didn't once check my watch, or my mind wandered off to a happier place. Despite its slow rhythm, the story does move along, keeping the audience interested. Still, you can shave 20 mins off this drama and make it more dramatic (less is more as often in arts), and it can still be slow enough to convey the slow rhythm of a small town and their torpor existence.

If you like, this film could be classified as a romantic Republican period drama.

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