French-Asian festival celebrates Chinese films
Big celebrations can be expected in Vesoul, a small town in eastern France, for the upcoming Chinese New Year. The International Festival of Asian Film has a special section dedicated to Chinese films old and new.
A first feature film from China has had it’s European première at the Festival. It’s called One Summer, and is competing for the Golden Cyclo award.
The special section forms a retrospective of Chinese movies from 1959 through to the present day.
Among the older films is a puppet film by Lei Yeou. The Cock Crows at Midnight tells of a wily farmer who tries to trick his labourers into leaving so he won’t have to pay them a full year’s wage. A twelve year-old catches him out.
This tale of exploitation was made in 1964, shortly before Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution.
A few scenes in a more recent film in competition in Vesoul, One Summer, refer to that period of tragedy and upheaval in China, though the main issues in the film are corruption and a pervasive feeling of vulnerability and insecurity.
It’s about a woman’s efforts to find her husband and understand why the police took him away without explanation.
Director Yang Yishu explains how only the main role is played by a professional actor, and that her then five-year-old daughter (Feng Yishi), playing the daughter of the distraught woman, surprised her.
“As she’s my daughter, I was worried she’d delay everyone. But everything she had to do, she did it right."
One Summer is Director Yang Yishu’s first fiction feature, after two documentaries; her background comes through in One Summer’s social-realism style.
However, Yang’s sensitivity to the woman’s plight and resolve in the stark reality keep us, like the character Zhen Liu, wondering until the absurd end.
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