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November 15 - 24 , 2002

Global Visions
Alexander Payne: American Allegories

This year’s festival of contemporary Chinese cinema focuses on the formal strategies and narrative means that a new generation of hip, young Chinese filmmakers is developing in response to the unprecedented pace of urban economic growth and social change in the world’s most populous nation. While their work focuses on a range of current social and economic concerns—from AIDS, unemployment, and divorce to housing dislocation and migration, immigration, and emigration—it is, above all, about love in the new urban setting. In a parallel component, the program provides a glimpse into new approaches at the venerable Beijing Film Academy, where the new leadership is preparing the filmmakers of the new millennium. Finally, we look back to the direction that talented members of the Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakers—directors who began their work in the 1980s—have taken in their recent work.

This festival is presented in collaboration with The ChinaFilm Project, dedicated to enhancing mutual appreciation, understanding, respect, and economic relations between the United States and China through film, television, and video.

November 15 (Friday) 7 pm
November 17 (Sunday) 9 pm
Director Li Xin in Person

Dazzling (Hua yan)

Directed by Li Xin
China 2001, 35mm, color, 84 min.
With Wu La La, Xu Jinglei, Mei Ting
Mandarin with English subtitles

Guarded by a pair of angels under the skies of of a modern but romanticized Shanghai, fearless youth—theater patrons reimagined by a fornlorn movie usher with light-sensitive eyes—try their luck at love. The stories the usher conjures up take place over the course of twelve hours, each with its specific temperature: a college youth pursues a girl from a photograph on the theater’s floor; an overweight gym teacher finds sudden athleticism when his girlfriend dumps him; a young woman follows a map into the forest and finds her true love. As the couples play out different themes of urban romance—fear of commitment, love as repetition, love as obsession—the usher waits endlessly for a young woman he has encountered in a bar to meet him in the park. Moments of magic realism and sophisticated visual style combine with an uncanny narrative technique to capture the essence love in the modern city. 

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November 15 (Friday) 9 pm
November 19 (Tuesday) 9 pm

Suzhou River (Suzhou he)

Directed by Lou Ye
Germany/China 2000, 35mm, color, 83 min.
With Zhou Xun, Jia Hongsheng
Mandarin with English subtitles

At the forefront of China’s "Sixth Generation," director Lou Ye blends the influences of American and European directors (comparisons are often drawn between Suzhou River and Hitchcock’s Vertigo) to create a highly original visual and narrative style. The film is told from the viewpoint of a lonely videographer who studies the human traffic that passes through the streets below his balcony. He meets Meimei, a mysterious nightclub performer with a mermaid act, and falls in love. In a parallel narrative, Marda, a motorcycle courier, recounts the story of his lost love, a free spirit who disappeared into the Suzhou River but whom he now believes to have survived in the form of Memei. Filled with arresting imagery and uncanny shifts of emotion, Suzhou River is as much a journey through a paradoxical and harsh Shanghai as through the complexities of modern relationships.

Beijing Rocks! (Bak Ging lok yue liu)

Directed by Mabel Cheung
China/ Hong Kong 2001, 35mm, color, 109 min.
With Le Geng, Richard Ng, Qi Shu
Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles

Michael is the son of a wealthy Hong Kong businessman who is sent to Beijing by his father to practice the Mandarin language. An aspiring singer-songwriter, he meets a struggling Beijing punk band and becomes friends with the band’s leader and his go-go dancing girlfriend—a beautiful and spirited figure with whom he falls in love as he accompanies the group on tour. With a visual style that oscillates between realism and MTV, Cheung presents a road movie that explores the emotional depth beneath the characters’ hard-rock exteriors. Complementing the music track is striking cinematography by Oscar-winning cameraman Peter Pau, responsible for the startling imagery of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

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November 16 (Saturday) at 7 pm
November 16 (Saturday) at 9:15 pm

Beijing Bicycle (Shiqi sui de dan che)

Directed by Wang Xiaoshui
China/Taiwan 2001, 35mm, color, 113 min.
With Cui Lin, Li Bin, Zhou Xin
Mandarin with English subtitles


Called by one critic a "semi-demi-remake" of The Bicycle Thief, Wang’s film tells the story of a young bicycle messenger from the countryside whose primary means of transportation and income, an expensive new mountain bike, is stolen just as he has nearly earned enough to buy it from his employer. Updating the story from the poverty of postwar urban Italy to the bustle of present-day Beijing, the film centers on the boy’s daunting search through a city full of bicycles until he eventually confronts a young student who has now come to possess the missing property. Their conflict, and the meaning the bicycle holds for each of them, is set against the backdrop of the alleyways and side streets of a changing Beijing. It is a graceful and inviting story of loneliness in a crowded city.

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November 17 (Sunday) 7 pm
November 23 (Saturday) 9 pm

A Sigh (Yi sheng tan xi)

Directed by Feng Xiaogang
China 2000, 35mm, color, 120 min.
With Zhang Guoli, Liu Bei
Mandarin with English subtitles

Screenwriter Liang Yazhou is successfully employed and happily married, a seeming paragon of the new urban Chinese professional. Contentment seems assured until he meets Li Xiaodan, a beautiful screen-writing assistant with whom he falls in love. Caught in this romantic triangle, Liang becomes torn between his caring, devoted wife and his passionate, carefree young lover. Feng, director of Be There Be Square and the forthcoming The Bigshot’s Funeral, creates sensitive social commentary as he presents the moral and cultural dichotomy facing the burgeoning middle-class in contemporary China. The film took best picture, best actor, best actress, and best screenwriting awards at the 2000 Cairo International Film Festival.

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November 22 (Friday) 7 pm

Films from the Beijing Film Academy

Introduced by a distinguished delegation from the Beijing Film Academy, this special program will present screenings of new student work in live-action directing and animation, paired with the student work of now prominent members of the Fifth Generation, including Tian Zhuangzhuang and Zhang Yimou.

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November 23 (Saturday) 7 pm

Happy Times (Xingfu Shiguang)

Directed by Zhang Yimou
China 2000, 35mm, color, 95 min.
With Zhao Benshan, Dong Jie
Mandarin with English subtitles

The second film by Zhang Yimou to be set in a modern city, Happy Times marks a significant departure from the director’s more familiar historical subjects and pyrotechnic visual style. A bittersweet comedy about loneliness and cruelty among the urban poor, the film follows Zhao, a hapless, aging bachelor who woos his money-grubbing fiancée by claiming he’s a wealthy hotelier. She buys it, seizing on the opportunity to get her blind stepdaughter out of the house and into one of his hotels. Zhao and his gang of unemployed pals frantically devise one ploy after to another to fool the girl into believing his lies. In the process, a tender friendship develops. Using a naturalistic, simple camera style and focusing on performance, Zhang manages to create a touching addition to his increasingly diverse body of work.

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November 24 (Sunday) 7 pm

X-Roads (Xin shi zi jie tou)

Directed by Jiang Xiaozhen
China/Taiwan 2001, 35mm, color, 104 min.
With Rene Liu, Jin Zhao, Alan Thicke
Mandarin with English subtitles

In a tribute to her mother, Bai Yang—who starred in the 1937 Chinese classic Crossroads—director Jiang Xiaozhen tells a story of missed connections and inevitable destiny. Zhao Ming and Yang Shao, having grown up in different parts of China, cross paths for the first time when Shao returns to Shanghai for her mother’s funeral after living in New York. Suffering from culture shock and the frustrations of handling her mother’s estate, she extends her stay and meets Ming, her mother’s handyman. He jumps at the opportunity to ingratiate himself with Shao so that he can turn the bequeathed house into a nightclub. Though both are committed in other relationships, it is not long before the two realize their star-crossed love.

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