Review: Balzac & The Little Chinese Seamstress (2002)

Directed by:
Cast: , , , ,

Distributed in Australia by:

So. Why watch films? For that matter, why read books? Why listen to music?

Why idolise heroes and heroines that never were; villains and monsters that can never be and tales that are not true?

After all, what is the point of art and culture? It feeds no hunger and shelters nothing from the cold. What practical purpose does it serve to us as the human race?

This is the kind of thinking that led to things like the Cultural revolution and it is these kind of questions that Balzac and the Little Seamstress tries to answer and answer in such a heartfelt and moving way that I can stand up and justify my wasting my time and writing this review instead of making some money (the joys of having Chinese parents… well, parents of any sort, actually).

So apart from the thematic coolness of this (which I cannot emphasise enough) can I offer any other words of encouragement for Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress for those of you who just may not get it. Well first of all, the backdrop for this film is just plain beautiful. It seems I can never get enough of the Chinese countryside especially when it gets shot like is and the village that provides the setting for the film is just so rustic it’s hard not to feel empathise with the arrogance of two city intruders that are our central protagonists and the horror they share when their education is held with such disdain — a sense of the personal repression that was the cultural revolution.

But it’s not just ordeals both Ma and Lao go through. Apart from their relationship with the Little Seamstress and their secret cache of forbidden texts, their education comes in useful in entertaining the village and even acting as impromptu doctors (come to think of it, those of you with dentist phobias may either be relieved or horrified at how worse a dentists drill can be). At its core though, this is about how they both fall in love with the seamstress and how how that love changes her world as much as theirs — and it is treated with such tenderness that all the romantic comedies I have had the misfortune of seeing recently just seem bland and artificial.

But ultimately, what it all comes down to is that you really have to go see this film. Not only is it beautiful and poignant story but it is a reminder at how infinite the world is — no matter what people tell you, especially yourself.

9 bourgeois reactionaries out of 10.
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