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Posts Tagged ‘Zheng Yimou’

** and Gong Li

Daoming Chen and Gong Li

” COMING HOME” My rating: B+

109 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

In the wrong hands “Coming Home” could have been an insufferable soap opera, like something out of the Nicholas Sparks School of Bathos, China Division.

But the man behind the camera is director Yimou Zhang; in front is his perennial leading lady, the amazing Gong Li; and the subject matter places the yarn’s personal tragedy against a backdrop of political and societal upheaval.

The results are heartbreaking.

The story begins in the early 1970s when Mao’s Cultural Revolution is in full swing.  Feng Wanyu (Li) is a schoolteacher sharing an apartment with her 14-year-old daughter, Dan Dan (Huiwen Zhang).

Dan Dan is an ambitious dancer with a company specializing in proletarian ballets. You know, the kind where the young ladies of the chorus learn to pirouette while waving flags, thrusting bayonets and tossing hand grenades.

Feng’s husband Lu (Daoming Chen) is a former professor who has been imprisoned for more than a decade. His crimes were intellectual and Feng insists on defending her man even though Dan Dan, who has grown up fatherless, has swallowed the party Kool Aid and fears that her chances at big roles are reduced because of her father’s sins.

When word arrives that Lu has escaped, an eager Feng looks forward to being reunited with her long lost love. Dan Dan, though, has a Hitler Youth mentality and isn’t above betraying Daddy to curry favor with the bigwigs at her ballet studio.

The film’s first half hour follows the fugitive Lu as he lives on the streets and tries to contact his wife without alerting the cops who are hovering outside the apartment building. Eventually he is caught and returned to prison without even having held his wife in his arms.

Several years later the Cultural Revolution has run out of steam and hundreds of thousands of “counterrevolutionaries” like Lu are declared rehabilitated and returned to their homes. But the grand welcome the former prisoner has long dreamed of isn’t happening.  Feng now suffers from dementia. She doesn’t recognize Lu…in fact she mistakes him for a party official who once persecuted her.

Lu moves into an abandoned storefront across the street. From there he can watch Feng coming and going and hopefully work his way back into her life.

Gelding Yan’s screenplay is a tragedy of near misses.

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