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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Unrated)

Release Date: July 29th, 2005 (NYC- Paris Theater) by Empire Pictures.
The Cast: Zhou Xun, Chen Kun, Liu Ye, Wang Shuangbao
Directed by Dai Sijie.
In Mandarin and French with subtitles.

BASIC PREMISE: During the Maoist Cultural Revolution, two college students (Kun and Ye) visit a Maoist camp to cleanse themselves of their western modern values while they both fall in love with a beautiful young seamstress (Xun).

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: It is very easy to be enchanted by the beautiful images throughout this film. Nature plays a big part in this enchantment with a lot of lush greens and a simple, yet picturesque scene of girls splashing in a small lake. Many images cling to your memory long after the film is over, particularly a lake with many small papers floating around like fireflies in the night. The musical score is also consistently effective in creating a tranquil mood. This is the kind of film that does not use a lot of action to tell story. The conflicts within the plot become clear gradually as the old generation's traditional values clash with the younger, more modern values. Eventually, the people of the Maoist camp fall in love with cinema and just plain storytelling from novels, such as those of Honore de Balzac. The love triangle between the two college students and the seamstress never amounts to any violence or big arguments, which is very fortunate because otherwise it would have been too contrived and predictable. The last 30 minutes of the plot are very unpredictable, just like life itself. Everything in this film is very true-to-life --and that is why it succeeds in pulling you in from the very first scene to the last breathtakingly poetic scene.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: The romance between the seamstress and the two college students is so real and that it is difficult not to get a little teary-eyed by the end. Even though there are no big speeches or lectures with profound insight, the issue of cultural revolution versus maintaining traditional values is still a very timely and important one that everyone can relate to. There is something very touching and even poignant about a time and place that is so simplistic, natural, and secluded from civilization. There still are many places like that today, many of which are poverty-stricken. However, there are camps, such as the one in this film, where its inhabitants are truly happy to live there and would be devastated if they were forced to adjust to technology or any other Western invention of the Cultural Revolution.



THE BOTTOM LINE: A film that has more than just enchanting scenery and beautiful music: it is poignant, poetic, deeply moving and it raises issues about cultural revolutions that are still very important today. This is the kind of film that tugs at your heart and never lets go!

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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