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What was the last Chinese film you watched?

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双旗镇刀客 Swordsman in Double Flag Town. Basically a Western: even the town is like a Western town, a small cluster of houses in the middle of nowhere, with one street ending in the wilderness on both ends, and everyone getting around on horseback. Young boy (our hero) comes to town to pick up the wife his now-dead father told him was promised him here. Finds intended wife, but her father has little faith in a young boy providing for his beloved daughter and doesn't let her go. Boy and girl fall in love anyway. Bad guy comes to town, tries to rape the girl. Hero turns out to know kung fu after all and kills bad guy. Bad guy's big brother, the big bad, will kill him for it. The townspeople panic and make the hero promise to stay and kill the big bad too. Hero does so after a long, terse standoff and then rides off into the sand with his bride.


First, a rant on rape scenes. What is it with Chinese movies and rape? It's everywhere. You can hardly watch three movies without seeing at least one rape scene. I remember a Rotterdam Film Festival year where I watched a bunch of Chinese movies, tried to avoid the ones with rape and still saw something like three rapes. I remember channel-surfing in Taiwan, and granted I had like 150 channels but it seemed there was always a rape going on on one channel or another. Hollywood has its own women problem, but this at least is not it (I am not familiar with other big movie industries, so can't compare to those). The rape scenes I've seen are all plot devices or intended to motivate the hero or something like that. (For a movie that actually deals with how rape is bad, try Precious.) In this particular movie, there is only one girl, she is entirely 被动 and has no character development whatsoever. Replace her with a prized horse or a pot of gold, replace the attempted rape with an attempt to butcher the horse/steal the gold and you would have the exact same movie. The girl is not a character, she is a MacGuffin, and rape is treated not as something that happens to women, but as something that is centered on how men react to it.


And while I'm on my hobby horse: the men in this movie are played by gnarled older actors who are made-up to look even more gnarled and ugly. The women in this movie (there are a few among the townspeople, they are unnamed and have no dialogue) are played by pretty older actresses who are made-up to look a little bit darker-skinned and then put in drabby clothes. Gives me the impression that the director/the casting agent/whoever could either not conceive of the concept of ugly female actors, or could not bring themselves to hire ugly women.


Now I've got that out of the way... Apart from those problems, this movie is very cool and it is beautifully filmed. As I said, basically a western, with badass men (and a badass boy) riding fiery horses through a gorgeous wild and desolate landscape. The story, once set in motion, is entirely predictable in a good way: hero kills bad guy, which means the big bad will take revenge, which means the town is in danger, which means the hero will have to be a hero: it is all unavoidable, it has to be done, it has to be this way. To top it off there is a presumed badass who instead provides some very nice comic relief, a touch of irony in an otherwise serious movie with people who take themselves seriously.


So, in the end, I still recommend it.

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I just watched Us and Them (后来的我们) which I really enjoyed. It’s much deeper than my appear and features some beautiful cinematography with really clever editing. It also has the actress from 七月与安生 who is again excellent.


This is on Netflix where I watched it. 

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I watched 7 Chinese movies on long flights aboard Ethiopian Airlines recently - so basically whatever was available. I was very pleasantly surprised by and would definitely recommend Youth. (芳华). I also really enjoyed the animated film Have a Nice Day (大世界). Both from 2017.


I think I'm finally back into my Mandarin Experiment for good...

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For those who don’t know, it’s basically called “The Exs”. It’s about couples that break up and what they do.


Yeah it’s cheesy and a bit of a chick flick, but after living in China for 6 years I can say the modern day culture is spot on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed these types of conversations among friends in China. Plus it’s full of a lot of modern day slang. 


It’s the sort of movie that my wife and I will put on after a long day at work and don’t want to have to focus on the plot of a movie. Just sit back and relax. 

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Fist of Fury 精武门. Bruce Lee plays a student of Huo Yuanjia, who comes home to find his master dead. There's a giggling 汉奸, evil assorted foreigners keeping the Chinese down; there is kicking the ass of an entire judo school of baddies with one's bare fists (and bare chest, very important), and there is the Heroic Sad ending. Great stuff.


Dot to Dot 点对点, slow and small Hong Kong movie about a Hong Kong man just returned after growing up in Canada and a Jilin schoolteacher coming to HK to teach Mandarin, and there is nostalgia about Hong Kong in the seventies and a little bit of history, but it's more about the importance of history than about history itself. Very nice little film.


And in both I could understand bits and pieces of Cantonese here and there and that was fun. I've been taking classes for some time now.

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Today I saw 白蛇:缘起 a 3d animated movie. The story is kind of standard, but especially the environments are very nice to look at.











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