A pregnant peasant woman seeks redress from the Chinese bureaucracy after the village chief kicks her husband in the groin in this comedy of justice. As she is frustrated by each level of ...
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A pregnant peasant woman seeks redress from the Chinese bureaucracy after the village chief kicks her husband in the groin in this comedy of justice. As she is frustrated by each level of the hierarchy and travels farther and farther away from the countryside the viewer is also provided with a look at the changing Chinese society through the verite camera used in most scenes.Written by
Keith Loh <email@example.com>
Sweet, sad little film filled with timely social commentary on the Chinese system
Gong Li, China's top actress in the 1990s (deservedly so), plays a naive but determined innocent, a young married woman from a remote farming village who wants nothing more than to have the village elder apologize to her husband for kicking him in a fit of anger. The bureaucratic nightmare she endures, making repeated trips to "the city" to seek justice, exposes her to a system she didn't know existed, a completely convoluted and impregnable one that operates solely by standards and practices, totally devoid of compassion or an understanding of the people it governs.
This is a small film, an earlier work by master Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou (To Live, Ju Dou), but what really makes it work is Gong as Qiu Ju. Every effect of this effectless society registers on her face, mostly in the form of surprise at the promises unkept and disappointment at the lack of concern by officials who are supposed to be responsible to "the people." She makes us care deeply about Qiu Ju, even though we may not be able to identify directly with her circumstances, but even beyond this, she makes these provincial circumstances universal by being the everywoman, someone who just wants the people in charge to do what's right without it necessarily having any adverse impact on themselves. Gong's ability to inject political situations with sincere human emotion has made her an ideal representative of the message running through all of Zhang's films (she has appeared in several of them), but beyond this, she simply is a great actress who should eventually become as world renowned as Joan Chen once was.
What makes this film even more prescient is how well many Americans may identify with the nightmares presented by a government hierarchy overstuffed with "I just work here" bureaucrats. And the ending is infused with a poignant irony that will hit home with anyone who has, in their own lives, found that time heals all wounds.
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