Yimou Zhang´s “To Live” (Huozhe) from 1994 is shown at Vienna Café tonight. Gong Li is the lead actress.
Vienna Café goes epic tonight, when showing Yimou Zhang´s drama “To Live” (Huozhe) from 1994. The film who is based on the novel of the same name by Yu Hua, earned several awards and nominations in Cannes that year, as well as other international film festivals. The story starts in the forties, moves passed the CCP´s 1949 victory, on to the Cultural Revolution in 1966 and onwards…
It is all seen from the perspective of puppeteer Xu Fugui (Ge You), his long-suffering wife Jiazhen (Gong Li) and their family:
Fugui and Jiazhen endure tumultuous events in China as their personal fortunes move from wealthy landownership to peasantry. Addicted to gambling, Fugui loses everything. In the years that follow he is pressed into both the nationalist and communist armies, while Jiazhen is forced into menial work. They raise a family and survive, managing “to live” from the 40’s to the 70’s in this epic, but personal, story of life through an amazing period.
The film got banned in China by SARFT because of its critical portrayal of some of the Communist government’s actions. But as if that weren´t enough, Yimou Zhang and lead actress Gong Li was also banned from film making for the following two years, and were forbidden to even speak about the movie. A story which might bring your mind to a more recent case of banned directors, Lou Ye.
Just like the dramatic events in many of his movies, Yimou Zhang himself has had a turbulent life. Political stigmatization, the triumph of his talents, a public extramarital affair, personal and professional adversity, a struggle to find a new direction and so on.. But he´s survived through it all and has continued to deliver big names to the silver screen, or what do you say about Jet Li, Andy Lau, Yiyi Zhang, Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat in movies like Hero (2002), House of Flying Daggers (2004), Curse of the Golden Flower (2006), and last year´s A Simple Noodle Story. With such internationally acclaimed names, and several successes at European Film Festivals, Yimou Zhang is maybe the best known of China’s “Fifth Generation” of filmmakers.
Some random quotes about “To Live”, this week´s movie of choice, stemming from both hobby-reviews and and top-critics:
As is typical with Zhang’s films, this one is gripping and leaves you with admiration for the brave souls who survive under totalitarian rule.
It rushes through history as if it were firemen rushing to a fire.
I have never seen a more anti-Communist movie. The horrors of this ideology were everywhere.
It is a big, strong, energetic film, made by a filmmaker whose vision takes in four decades of his nation’s history, and who stands apart from all the political currents, and sees that ordinary people everywhere basically want what his heroine cries out for, a quiet life. It is exciting to see these new films as they emerge from China. They are history being written, celebrated, and mourned.
Shanghaiist and Cinematheque joins the choir by saying: don´t miss, don´t miss, don´t miss!
The film will be screened in Chinese with English subtitles. For info on where and when, click here.
Check out what other movies are showing in Shanghai this coming week. Links lead to info about times and venues.
- Asian Travelogues Series: This biweekly showcase of Asian films embarks on a cinematic journey across Asia, discovering rare, offbeat, popular and classic films. This week’s selection will be 2004 Chinese film The World, directed by Jia Zhangke. Based on the memoirs of a gang boss, it follows young men in post-atomic bomb Hiroshima as they as they struggle to find new purpose in their lives. In Chinese with English subtitles. RMB80 including a drink.
- Cinés-Croisés: In Search of Lost love: Alliance Française presents two movies on the same theme, lost love. Both movies are free, and in French with Chinese subtitles.
First out is “Les Regrets”,2009, directed by Cédric Kahn. Mathieu Lievin (Yvan Attal), 40 years old, Parisian architect, took the road to reach the small town of his childhood where his mother just has been hospitalized in emergency. In the street, he meets Maya (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), his childhood sweetheart, he has not seen for fifteen years. Two hours later, the phone rings in the family home: it is Maya who invites him to come to her place. He hesitated a moment and then accepted …
Second film is “Petites Coupures”, 2003, by Pascal Bonitzer. In winter, Bruno (Daniel Auteuil), is torn between his wife Gaelle (Emmanuelle Devos) and her young mistress Nathalie (Ludivine Sagnier). Two more women will get into his life: Béatrice and Mathilde. Béatrice (Kristin Scott Thomas) was a relatively whimsical woman whom he falls in love in an eventful night. As for Mathilde (Pascale Bussières), she is the one on whom he will cast his sights when he feels abandoned by the first …
ENGLISH LANGUAGE MOVIES
- Shrek Forever After: The final chapter in the Shrek tetralogy, this one follows a domesticated, family-oriented Shrek who signs a pact with sneaky Rumpelstiltskin to get back to his dragon-challenging ways. After he’s tricked and sent to a backwards version of Far Far Away — where ogres are hunted, Rumpelstiltskin is king and Shrek and Fiona have never met — our hero must find a way to set things right.
- My Mom’s New Boyfriend (特工的特别任务): Henry Durand is a young federal agent who is given a difficult assignment: spy on his mother and her boyfriend who is suspected of leading a gang of art thieves. Directed by George Gallo and starring Meg Ryan and Antonio Banderas.
- Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (高度怀疑): “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” is a remake of the 1956 film noir by Fritz Lang in which a writer’s plan to expose a corrupt district attorney takes an unexpected turn.. The new version is written, directed and filmed by Peter Hyams, and starring Michael Douglas and Amber Tamblyn.
- Avatar: (阿凡达): James Cameron is back with this super expensive sci-fi thriller in 3D. Follow ex-marine Jack (Sam Worthington) as he explores planet Pandora as an avatar; a human mind in an alien body. On this paradise-like planet, he faces hostilities from exotic life forms and falls in love with a female alien. This movie used ground-breaking techniques and is being shown in 3-D. In English or Chinese depending on the cinema.
- Prince of Persia (波斯王子：时之刃): The Sands of Time: Based on the the 2003 video game of the same name, this action-adventure fantasy film transports you back in time to sixth-century Persia, aka Iran. Jake Gyllenhall plays street urchin Dastan who is adopted by the king as his heir. He then teams up with Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) to rescue the Sands of Time – a gift from the gods that controls time – from evil nobleman Nizam (Ben Kingsley).
- How To Train Your Dragon (驯龙高手): This computer-animated fantasy film by DreamWorks Animation is loosely based on the 2003 book of the same title. The story takes place in a mythical Viking world where a young Viking teenager named “Hiccup” aspires to kill a dragon in order to get notice in a viking society. He finally shoots down a dragon, capturing it with a bolas cannon, though no one sees his feat nor believes him. But even with his chance at finally proving himself, he finds that he no longer has the desire to kill the dragon he captured and with time, befriends it.
- Step Up 2: The Streets (舞出我人生：街舞): “Step Up 2: The Streets” is the 2008 sequel to Step Up from Touchstone Pictures. The movie was directed by Jon Chu, and choreographed by Jamal Sims, Hi-Hat (Bring It On) and Dave Scott (Stomp the Yard). It follows Andie West (Briana Evigan) as she pursues her big dream of becoming a street dancer. She trains with her dance crew, the “410” (pronounced four-one-oh), to keep the title of the illegal competition ‘The Streets’. Tyler (Channing Tatum) meets her at the dance club, The Dragon. Tyler tries to persuade her to audition for the Maryland School of the Arts (MSA), where Andie has to compete for a place, thinking it will help her life as it did his.
- Iron Man 2 (钢铁侠2): With the world now aware of his dual life as the armored superhero Iron Man, billionaire inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) faces pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military. Unwilling to let go of his invention, Stark, along with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) at his side, must forge new alliances and confront powerful enemies.
- Echelon Conspiracy (夺命手机): Max Peterson is a globe-trotting techno-whiz who installs security systems on computers. In the Czech Republic he receives an anonymous gift: a phone which sends messages that enable him to win at a casino. Max soon finds himself pursed by hit men, the casino’s security chief, and a CIA operative. Who’s sending Max messages? Previous recipients of similar windfalls have ended up dead. After a couple of close scrapes, Max realizes he’s in danger, so he tries to find out the root of the conspiracy – which seems to have access to every security camera in the world – before he’s the next victim. Why is this happening to him, and who can he trust?
- In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (地牢围攻): “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale” is a 2008 fantasy film inspired by the Dungeon Siege video game series, which was directed by Uwe Boll. Set in the kingdom of Ehb, the story follows a man called Farmer (Jason Statham), who was adopted by his village. When Farmer’s wife, Solana (Claire Forlani), and his son leave to sell vegetables at the town of Stonebridge, Farmer’s farm is attacked by creatures called Krugs. With the help of his friend and neighbor Norrick (Ron Perlman) he travels to Stonebridge; however, the Krugs kill his son and capture his wife. With the help of Norrick and Bastian (Will Sanderson), Farmer’s brother-in-law, he intends to find and rescue his wife.
CHINESE LANGUAGE MOVIES
- Lost on Journey (人在囧途): Comedy “Lost on Journey” is directed by Yip Wai-Man and stars Chinese actors Wang Baoqian and Xu Zheng. The story takes place in the period before Spring Festival Eve when China’s national railway system is overloaded with people rushing back home. It is extremely hard for many people to get a ticket back, let alone a comfortable seat. Wang Baoqiang stars as a dairy worker who loses his job before Spring Festival, while Xu Zheng plays a businessman who’s in trouble with his wife and mistress. The two characters meet while travelling to their hometown to spend Spring Festival with relatives. Funny things happen between the two men and with the people they encounter on their way home. Yip Wai-Man was the assistant director of “Bodyguards and Assassins”, which received more nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards than any other film in history.
- Ma Wen’s Battle (马文的战争): This Chinese flick is adapted from Ye Zhaoyan’s best-selling novel of the same name. It tells the story of Ma Wen and his wife Yang Xin, who cannot agree on the distribution of their property after getting divorced. Ma ends up sharing a tiny room with his now ex-wife, their young son and his ex-wife’s new lover.
- Illusion Apartment (异度公寓): The horror film “Illusion Apartment” is directed by Jiang Guoquan and stars Stephanie Siao, Ray Ma, Eddie Cheung and Amguulan. It tells a story about the devil which lurks in people’s hearts. Considering the impact of horror films on youngsters, there will be a warning sign on the posters displayed in cinemas; however they will not be restricted to see the film.
- The Three Smiles: The Scholar and the Beauty (三笑之才子佳人): A young girl is determined to win the heart of a pop singer, by all cost…Loosely inspired by the love story of scholar Tang Yi (Tang Bohu) and house maid Qiu Xiang, which originated in the 16th Century, this off-beat comedy is created by Chinese comedian Guo Degang and his colleagues and disciples. Starring Stephen Chow and Gong Li’s.
- Road To Revival (复兴之路): “Road to Revival” is a film based on the musical staged in 2009 to celebrate the nation’s 60th birthday, one of the most popular shows in Beijing last year. Zhang Jigang, director of the stage epic, also directs the film, presenting the nation’s revival over the past 169 years since Western powers invaded China in the 1840s Opium Wars. When brought to the big screen, it maintains the magnificent setting and stellar cast including Peng Liyuan and Song Zuying.
- The Perfect Match (终极匹配): A womanizer does not know who should be his perfect match, an energetic college graduate or a mature working business woman… From first time director Cheng Long, who has been working as the editor of three Zhang Yimou’s films, “Curse of the Golden Flower”, “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” and “House of the Flying Daggers”.
- Black Cat Detective (黑猫警长): One of the most popular animated television series in China in the 1980s is now a feature-length film. THe original five stories of the animated series are merged into one, with some modern touches. According to director Dai Tielang, who created the original series, there are no major changes. The popular theme song is remixed and trendy modern elements have been added to some dialogue and to the settings.
- East Wind, Rain (东风雨): In the film, Fan Bingbing plays a spy during WWII. In order to fulfill her mission and keep the organization’s information secret, she sacrifices herself. Director Liu set the film, which takes place in Shanghai, before and after the attack on Pearl Harbour. The Shanghai of 1941, as presented in the movie, is filled with spies working for different countries and organizations. An Ming, a Chinese agent, works undercover as a pianist in a local pub. He decodes the “East Wind, Rain” message and tries to pass on the information. Director Liu plays An Ming.
- Go Lala Go! / Du Lala’s Promotion (杜拉拉升职记): Helmed by actress-turned-director Xu Jinglei, the film is adapted from a novel entitled “Du Lala’s Promotion”. The best-seller centers on a woman named Du Lala who takes the high road to get promoted. The film stars director Xu Jinglei herself as Du Lala, as well as Stanley Huang, Karen Mok, Li Ai, and Pace Wu.
Super-Frog Warriors (超蛙战士之初露锋芒): In the distant future, in order to live on other planets, human beings have evolved into a new race: one of which is a frog tribe. But now the frog tribe finds itself under attack from another evolved species, one based on cockroaches. Now the two must battle for resources and to unlock the secrets of old human technology.
OTHER LANGUAGE MOVIES
- Vitus (钢琴小神童): The film tells the story of a highly-gifted boy whose parents have demanding and ambitious plans for him – they want him to become a pianist… Directed by Fredi M. Murer. In Swiss German.
- Largo Winch (决战豪门): After a powerful billionaire is murdered, his secret adoptive son must race to prove his legitimacy, find his father’s killers and stop them from taking over his financial empire. Directed by Jérôme Salle. In French.
- Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster (叶问2：宗师传奇): Two years after the film “Ip Man” (叶问) a sequel is now released, once again under the direction of Wilson Yip (Yip Wai Shun) and with Donnie Yen in the leading role. The film follows Ip Man, the kung fu master who among others taught Bruce Lee some of his tricks and kicks. After killing a Japanese army official to defend his honor, Ip Man flees to Hong Kong with his family to start a new life. Ip attempts to propagate his discipline of Wing Chun, but faces rivalry from other practitioners, including the local master of Hung Ga martial arts. In Cantonese.
- El Orfanato / The Orphanage (孤堡惊情): The former orphan Laura raises her adopted son Simón with her husband Carlos in an old house and former orphanage where she was raised. Simón is HIV positive and tells Laura that he has five invisible friends, and she believes they are fruit of his imagination. Laura decides to reopen an orphanage for handicapped children in the location and during the opening party, Simón calls her to show the little cabin of his friend Tomás. The busy Laura does not gives much attention to her son; then she sees a mysterious masked boy and Simón vanishes. Laura feels the presence of other persons in the house and months later, the desperate Laura invites a team of parapsychologists to try to unravel the mystery. In Spanish.