Sunday, February 26, 2006

Seventeen Years

Seventeen Years by Zhang Yuan (1999).

Yu Zhenggao and Tao Airong are a remarried couple. Each one of them has a daughter of the same age. However they constantly argue for no specific reasons, and the two sisters are different in their characters. Yu's daughter, Xiaoqin, is a studious, quiet girl whereas Tao's daughter, Tao Lan, is an outgoing girl. One day, another quarrell bursts when Xiaoqin stole 5 yuans that her father had left on the table. But, the money is found on Tao Lan's bed, and Tao is accused of being the thief. The mother gets angry with her daughter. Tao Lan runs off. She comes across Xiaoqin and hits her with a piece of wood. Xiaoqin dies...
Seventeen years later, Tan Lao is still in prison but because she was rewarded for having a good behaviour, she is picked up with only a few others amongst all the female inmates to spare the Spring Festival with her family. Tan Lao is now a woman, but a completely broken, silent and faded woman. Nobody is there to meet her at the prison's entrance. The police woman who sees her at the station decides to accompany her to her family...
This movie won many awards at international film festivals and was allowed to be screened in China (his previous films were forbidden, now all his current films are authorized). It's a particularly moving film - and be prepared to have tissues or hankerchieves next to you! But I loved the scenes when the policewoman and Tao Lan walk across the city, they are very good portraits of urban environment, also all the actors are excellent and, of course, the final part is rather touching, even if quite dramaticly tense, but very well played and well shot. Zhang Yuan subtely depicts the relationships between the characters without explaining too much.
This kind of close and intimate relationships will be seen again in I Love You.

Other Zhang Yuan's films seen so far :
Beijing Bastards (1993)
East Palace West Palace (1996)
Crazy English (1999) although quite loosely - documentary about a guy who teaches English in a special method - after awhile I got a bit bored, it was on tv once, I knew afterwards that he directed it.
I Love You (2003)
Green Tea (2003)
also a revolutionary opera that he filmed but this is never mentioned, I saw it when it wasn't supposed to be shown at the festival.
His lastest film is Little Red Flowers (2006).

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