(Xia cheng zhi chun)
Directed by Tian Zhuanghuang. China/Hong Kong/France. 2002
Dai Liyan (Wu Jun) and his wife Yuwen (Hu Jingfan) live in a war-damaged house with Liyan's sister Xiu and their housekeeper Huang. The film beautifully captures the atmosphere of a once-grand mansion that has barely survived. The married couple sleep in separate rooms, their lives without intimacy or passion as a result of Liyan's undiagnosed illness that he believes to be tuberculosis, though the film hints that it may be psychosomatic.
When an old friend, a
30-year old doctor from Shanghai, Zhang Zhichen (Xin Bai Qing), comes to
visit and discovers that Liyan's wife was his childhood sweetheart, his
passion is immediately re-ignited. The ensuing rivalry of two very different
men for the love of one woman is played out with subtlety and intelligence.
Similar in theme and mood to Wong Kar-Wei's In the Mood for Love,
each character is forced to conceal his or her true feelings, perhaps out
of social propriety or moral concerns. Though I admired the inner nobility
of the characters, I felt distanced by the husband's extreme passivity,
and saddened by the unfulfilled longing of the two central protagonists.
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