Xiao cheng zhi chun
starring Wu Jun, Bai Qing Xin, Hu Jingfan, Lu Si Si
screenplay by Ah Cheng
directed by Tian Zhuangzhuang
by Walter Chaw Something like a Renoir film or a Brontë novel, Tian Zhuangzhuang's first feature film in nearly a decade Springtime in a Small Town ("Xiao Cheng Zhi Chun"), a remake of the Fei Mu's 1948 classic, is painterly and patient--a map of the inner rhythms of love and jealousy and sacrifice drawn with a master's steady stroke. The film introduces its three main characters in the same gently swooping style: the sickly scholar in the antebellum ruins of his family's home; the long-suffering wife reduced to duty and malaise; and the handsome doctor debarking at a South China train station. Springtime in a Small Town pulses with sensuality and submerged anxieties--that the scholar's ruined household hangs in the entropic vicissitude of ritual is a matter of fact; that the handsome doctor disturbs that delicate equilibrium is also never in question. What amazes about the picture is the way that silence is allowed to tell the tale and swell the meaning of every sigh and each glancing touch. An extraordinary film of manners and meticulous compositions, Springtime in a Small Town unfolds at the pace of a simmer: inevitable, inexorable, and possessed of that unmistakable air of Prufrock-ian half-life spent measuring out time in meaningless units until mermaids calling each to each lull frustrated lovers to action at last.
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