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Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars poignant and remarkable, May 14, 2009
This review is from: Sunflower (DVD)
The film speaks to universal emotions, those of family, conflict between generations, parental yearnings, aging, a sense of a familiar world vanishing into modernity. This film captures all of that, and needs little translating. I know I felt moved, and that doesn't happen easily.

Cinematically it's a remarkable triumph. The director uses color themes in a vivid and coherent way, one I can only compare to that of French director Jean Renoir. The settings capture the old courtyards of Beijing at a time when they're rapidly going under demolition, something the film uses. The story covers a tumultuous period but keeps it coherent, breaking it in three episodes: 1976, a time of political and real earthquakes; 1987, as a new Chinese way of life is emerging; 1999, in a modern Beijing that seems so unfamiliar to those who experienced the older period -- including, to some extent, this film's audience.

The director has also elicited marvelous performances from a talented cast, notably Joan Chen and Haiying Sun as mother and father, who mature -- visually and emotionally -- convincingly. He also got a strong performance out of the actors playing the son at ages 9, 19 and 32. That, and an evocative musical score, makes for an emotional experience. The viewer will come to care for these people.

The "making of" extra feature is sparse but has some good insights by the director and producer. The scenes where the director -- who lived through the 1970s -- is showing his modern child actors how to play in the old manner, is something for the film students to admire.

It's a pity this film didn't have a wider theater release, but the DVD is now on hand and deserves a wide audience.
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4.8 out of 5 stars (6 customer reviews)


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Location: Mill Valley, CA

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