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YELLOW EARTH

China, 1984 (MIFF 1987)

Director: Chen Kaige

Director Chen Kaige was only 32 when he made Yellow Earth, his debut feature. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), like many of his contemporaries, Chen had been sent down to the countryside to "learn from the peasants". The editors of Seeds Of Fire, a recently published anthology of contemporary Chinese literature, comment on the effect that experience was to have on Chen's vision. He saw that despite several decades of communist rule the peasantry in many places and in many ways remained nearly as backward and poor as before liberation. In this sense, Yellow Earth is not an historical film at all, and this, the editors note, was one of its most disturbing aspects for "orthodox communist viewers".

Yellow Earth breaks with the sometimes enchanting sometimes infuriating Chinese cinematic tradition of opera-like theatricality. Chen Kaige and cinematographer Zhang Yimou have created an alternative aesthetic inspired directly by their subject: the peasantry of northwest China and the harsh rugged landscape which is their home.

Cinema Papers

See also...

TOGETHER

13-year-old Xiaochun is a shy and sensitive violin prodigy who lives with his father, a hardworking chef in a provincial Chinese city. They set out for Beijing to further the young boy's musical ... More »

THE BIG PARADE

One of the most startling things about The Big Parade is how little its formal and visual qualities resemble Chen's internationally acclaimed debut feature, Yellow Earth. But perhaps the most salient ... More »

LIFE ON A STRING

... ... Based on a short story by Shi Tiesheng, Chen Kaige's latest film is a fable that explores the chasm between faith and magic, authority and disobedience, sacrifice and con­summation. Far ... More »

ALL THE KING'S MEN

Shih-chung, King of the Chou Dynasty ... in the 1st century , suffers from epilepsy ... and becomes addicted to the medicine ... prescribed by Occultist Lee, who is conspiring to usurp the throne ... More »

WINTER VACATION

"Already a poet and novelist, Li Hongqi is also a talented filmmaker, here managing to dot an ultra-minimalist slice of life with speckles of wry deadpan humour." - Time Out London ... The monotony ... More »

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