"The Road Home," a romance between a teacher and a country girl, is a pleasantly nostalgic look at a simpler life in rural China, made by Zhang Yimou and featuring the star of "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon."
By JOSHUA TANZER
Zhang Yimou's latest film, "The Road Home," is a sentimental look back at a simpler place and time a small north China mountain town in, apparently, the 1950s.
After the death of his father, a young urban professional returns to his tiny, cold hometown for the first time in years to help with the arrangements. The arrangements are complicated by his old, stubborn mother, who insists that the body be carried miles through the snow on foot so that his spirit will know the way back from the graveyard.
|THE ROAD HOME|
|Original title: 我的父親母親.|
Directed by: Zhang Yimou.
Written by: Bao Shi.
Cast: Zhang Ziyi, Sun Honglei, Zheng Hao, Zhao Yuelin, Li Bin, Chang Guifa, Sung Wencheng, Liu Qi, Ji Bo, Zhang Zhongxi.
Cinematography: Hou Yong.
In Mandarin with English subtitles.
Related links: Official site
This is a tall order, explains the elderly mayor. "We'd like to do it, but our young people have all left. They've gone to the city to work," he tells the absentee son.
This is the setup for a long reminiscence about life in the town in the early communist years, as the young man remembers the story of how his parents met. Mom, as a young girl, is played by the charming Zhang Ziyi, who went on to play the fierce young fighter in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."
When the village gets its first teacher (Sun Honglei), the girl, Zhao Di, is instantly smitten. Illiterate and properly modest, she doesn't dare to approach the handsome young man personally, but she makes him lunch daily during construction and then waits outside the school every day just to hear his voice.
This romance from afar full of symbolic gestures and carefully arranged accidental meetings makes a very pleasant story and is set against a seductively peaceful country backdrop. The ending puts the whole film into perspective, both as a love story and as a tribute to the kind of person who migrated to the country in the 1940s and 1950s to be a rural teacher.
This film follows Zhang Yimou's "Not One Less," also a cinema-verite portrait of a rural school, and it has a realistic feeling that makes me think it must be based on the true story of writer Bao Shi's parents. There are many nice touches in the film, like the shooting of the present day in a crisp black and white that emphasizes the snowy and rocky town of today, switching to color for the scenes from the past, adding vibrance to the love story and colorful romance to the scenes of 40 to 50 years ago. It's a simple story but lovingly told and pleasant to watch.
|MAY 29, 2001|
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