Friday, January 27, 2012

Under the Hawthorne Tree (2010) Celebrating Chinese New Year!

Yimou Zhang's intensely romantic and intensely beautiful story of love across class during the days of Mao.

Mao said that classrooms were to be built in the fields and to that end people were sent from the city into the country for re-education. Jing, a high school senior with a father in a political prison, is sent to a village were the Tree of Heroes grows. It was the site, according to local legend, where many people were martyred during the seSino Japanese War. Jing stays with a family with three sons and is smitten with one of them.

Its all in the eyes and the looks and the knowing glances....rarely has young love been so wonderfully explored.

One of the things that I love about the film is that it is very retro- in its feel. The look of the film is often like black and white post cards that had been colored by hand. Things look like revolutionary photographs at times. Through most of it it has the feeling of being a something we remember rather than what we are seeing.

The film also takes the form of a novel by bridging sections of the story and filling in plot points with simple intertitles. Actually I won't call them simple since they manage to not only move the plot along but they also add a depth to things that may not have been easily translated from the source novel without long exposition. Its a brillant move that will allows the story to grow naturally without getting needlessly complicated- after all this film is nothing more than a simple love story of star crossed lovers.

There is a simplicity to it all that is refreshing, an an innocence that manages to over come pretty much any flaws you may find. I for one was finding a late in the game scene playing out rather silly, and I was feeling that the film was letting me down in the stretch until a simple shot or two had me going from pondering a giggle to fighting back tears (what can I say I'm a hopeless romantic at heart).

If you like weepie romances this is one to search out. Its a a damn fine film, the work of a great director telling a simple story and nailing it perfectly.

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