Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Springtime in a Small Town

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Tian Zhuangzhuang (The Horse Thief), one of China's greatest living filmmakers, has had a difficult career because of his political outspokenness, and this 2002 feature was his first since The Blue Kite in 1993. It's a remake of the 1948 masterpiece Spring in a Small City by Fei Mu, widely considered the nation's greatest film by Mandarin speakers but tragically neglected by almost everyone else. A young doctor visits an ailing aristocrat, who's an old friend, and the man's alienated wife, who was the doctor's first sweetheart years earlier. The only other characters are the aristocrat's sister and aging male servant, and the concentration gives Tian's magisterial mise en scene enormous potency. This erotically charged drama may not be quite as great as the original, but it's an amazing and beautiful work just the same. In Mandarin with subtitles. 116 min. A 35-millimeter print will be shown. Reviewed this week in Section One. Gene Siskel Film Center.

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