Springtime In A Small Town


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Confucious, he say: "A still wind has a strong voice."

With exquisite delicacy, writer/director Tian Zhuangzhuang dissects the complexity of a woman's heart. Using a cast of five, isolated in one of few houses left standing in a small Chinese town after the Japanese invaders have laid it to waste, the film is theatrical in construct and almost Chekovian in spirit.

The Young Master is 30 years old, suffering what appears to be depression, although weak coughs suggest a lung infection. He spends the days feeling sorry for himself and contemplating the gradual decay of his heritage. "I fear my health, like this house, is beyond repair," he says.

The Young Mistress is a beautiful, yet lonely woman, who does not share his bed. The marriage was arranged eight years ago. They are gentle with each other, polite and formal, except when his temper flares. She cries at night.

Old Huang is the loyal retainer, who does everything around the house, without complaint. He has a generous and enthusiastic nature and would never contemplate criticism of the old order.

Little Sister is 16 and bubbling with life. Her sunny disposition contrasts with the quiet sadness of The Young Master and The Young Mistress, whom she loves in different ways. Her only fear is change.

Zhang Zhichen was a school friend of The Young Master. He is a doctor now in Shanghai and returns to the small town to stay with his friend, unaware that he is married, or that his wife was the reason that he left 10 years earlier, when her mother would not agree to their betrothal.

Why this film is so beautiful is that every shot has been carefully constructed and every nuance captured with the lightest touch. There is not a word, or gesture wasted.

Reviewed on: 17 Jul 2003
Share this with others on...
Springtime In A Small Town packshot
Love triangle amongst old friends in a big house in a ruined Chinese town.
Amazon link

Director: Tian Zhuangzhuang

Writer: Ah Cheng, based on a screenplay by Fei Mu

Starring: Hu Jingfan, Wu Jun, Xin Bai Qing, Ye Xiao Keng, Lu Si Si

Year: 2002

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: China/Hong Kong/France


Search database:

If you like this, try:

Raise The Red Lantern