Hibiscus Town
(Fu rong zhen)

Screening on Film
Directed by Xie Jin.
With Jiang Wen, Liu Linian, Liu Xiaoqing.
China, 1986, 35mm, color, 163 min.
Mandarin with English subtitles.
Print source: China Film Museum

The critical look at China’s recent past in Xie Jin’s films from the 1980s finds its apotheosis in this epic melodrama about the rise and fall of a female restaurant owner. When the film was originally released, some critics compared it unfavorably to what was seen as more nuanced work by younger Chinese filmmakers about the Cultural Revolution, such as Wu Tianming’s River Without Buoys (1983) and Chen Kaige’s King of the Children (1987). Thirty years later, such criticism seems to miss the sophistication in Xie’s Dickensian ability to mix satire, critique and sentiment, and the film has been compared to Borzage’s tales of love surviving society-wide turmoil and violence.

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Xie Jin,
Before and After the Cultural Revolution