Spring in a Small Town
Xiao cheng zhi chun
Dir. Fei Mu
China 1948 | Black and White | 93 mins
Cast: Wei Wei, Shi Yu, Li Wei, Zhang Hongmei
Regarded as the finest work from the first great era of Chinese filmmaking, Fei Mu’s quiet, piercingly poignant study of adulterous desire and guilt-ridden despair – now restored – is a remarkable rediscovery.
After eight years of marriage to Liyan – once rich but now sickly and almost suicidally apathetic following a long, ruinous war – Yuwen feels so drained that she too does little except mutely deliver his daily medication. Suddenly, a surprise visit from Liyan’s doctor friend Zhang re-energises the household, the invalid included. His teenage sister is not alone in her excitement over the much-travelled guest; Yuwen knew him before her marriage… Eliciting a superb performance from Wei Wei as Yuwen, whose pained voiceover offers insights into her conflicted feelings, Fei creates a tense, sensual chamberwork steeped in suspicion and suppressed longing, deep resentments and half-spoken truths. The metaphorical use of objects and locations, the telling camera movements and frequent dissolves make for a fraught, febrile mood of hesitant passion, entrapment and ennui; psychologically and cinematically sophisticated, the film eschews sentimentality to offer something far more beguiling. – Geoff Andrew
Available on: DCP
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