Monday, 5 December 2011

The Review - Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

I have always had a thing for foreign films; sometimes I actually prefer subtitles. I guess I figure it's a cheap way to travel, like reading books that are set in other countries. After watching a movie or reading a book set in a foreign country, I always feel like I've learnt a little more about somewhere else in the world.

Anyway, as some of you know, I majored in Chinese in my BA; therefore, I particularly enjoy watching Chinese movies, especially those that aren't your typical kung-fu martial arts-themed ones (although to be fair I do watch these on occasion as well). During my degree, I used to tell myself it was practically a type of "studying" when I watched Chinese films, but the reality is that I just like watching movies.

So a few years ago, I discovered a beautiful Chinese film called Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. Apparently the movie is actually based on a book by Dai Sijie, which is semi-autobiographical, but I must confess I had no idea of this until I googled the movie title about 10 seconds ago.

The movie is set in Sichuan Province and the scenery is absolutely breath-taking. The film is set around the time of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, specifically during the re-education period. Two young university students are sent to a hill-top village to learn farming, where they meet and both fall in love with a beautiful local girl - the granddaughter of an old tailor, known to everyone as the Little Seamstress. They manage to find a collection of banned books and teach the Little Seamstress about other countries, ideas and philosophies (hence the title of the film). Interestingly, the film is a collaboration between the French and Chinese, and perhaps this is why it's so beautifully shot. There are also some quite humorous moments in the film, for example when one of the students being re-educated brings out his violin to show the villagers and plays a Mozart Sonata, but re-names it "Mozart is thinking of Chairman Mao". I'm not sure how hard it is to get hold of, but it's definitely worth a watch.

Until next time :)

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