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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Dai Sijie is a writer and film maker who was born in China in 1954. He was reeducated during Mao's Cultural Revolution in the late 60s and now lives and works in France.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is a movie based on his semi-autobiographical novel, adapted and directed by Dai Sijie himself. Set during the Cultural Revolution it's a gentle, lyrical movie about the catalytic force of art in a restrictive regime. Two young men from intellectual families are sent to a country village set against a gorgeous mountain side. While there they expose the grand daughter of the village's tailor to forbidden works of literature with inevitable and touching results. Hard to believe that this movie and Equilibrium share the same basic theme!

Dai doesn't play up the atrocities of the times. Luo and Ma's re-education consists of hard work and simple pleasures; but like his characters, he is discreetly, playfully subversive.

Xun Zhou, the little seamstress in the title, plays 18, looks 12 and sounds 35. I think it's a significant that the seamstress is never given a name - she is a symbol of the China of the time more than a true character - but certainly that's not reflected in the acting which is real and affecting.

There are two abrupt, but not disorienting, time changes which lend the weight of regret and time to the movie.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 10, 2005 11:58 PM.

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