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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

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