Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2005)

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress



Critic Consensus: This delicately told fable about the power of literature is a lyrical delight.

Movie Info

Dai Sijie directs Balzac et La Petite Tailleuse Chinoise (The Little Chinese Seamstress), a film adaptation of his own best-selling autobiographical novel. Set in China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1970s, the story follows Luo (Chen Kun) and Ma (Liu Ye), two young men from the city who are sent to a mountain village for a re-education in Maoist principles. They work with the peasants under the supervision of the village head man (Wang Shuangbao), who considers their violin to be a … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Romance, Art House & International, Comedy
Directed By: ,
Written By: Dai Sijie, Nadine Perront
In Theaters:
On DVD: Dec 27, 2005
Box Office: $0.3M
Soda Pictures Ltd. - Official Site



as Luo

as Little Chinese Seams...

as Ma

as Village Head

as Old Tailor

as Old Tailor

as Four Eyes

as Four Eyes

as Four Eyes' mother

as village chief's wife

as commune head

as peasant

as peasant

as peasant

as villager

as villager

as villager

as villager

as Villager

as villager

as villager

as village chief's pret...

as airport saleswoman

as Madame Luo

as voice of journalist

as Four Eyes' Mother

as Peasant

as Villager
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

All Critics (71) | Top Critics (30)

The ethereal private moments and inspired passages are beautifully shot by Jean-Marie Dreujou, but Dai never quite organizes the material dramatically, and the tone is too often jagged and disruptive.

Full Review… | March 18, 2010
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The film is episodic, and most of the scenes are evocative and charming.

Full Review… | January 12, 2006
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

[A] tribute to the transforming power of books.

Full Review… | November 23, 2005
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Top Critic

A nifty little film about the powers of culture and the humanities.

Full Review… | November 17, 2005
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic

[A] charmer.

Full Review… | November 11, 2005
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

The movie may lose some of its bite when translated from page to screen, but it still delivers a valid message. When one of the boys starts reading good literature, life takes on new meaning.

October 21, 2005
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Set in 1971 communist China is the tale of two young men sent to live in the mountains to be "re-educated" as peasants in the Chairman Mao method. One is the son of a dentist, the other is a violinist, and both are considered "reactionists" because of their apparent intellectualism. The mountain villagers are painted as savages, with no knowledge of technology or high art (they think the violin is some sort of toy which they pass around and bang on like chimps) and a serious distrust of anything foreign. The two young men are quickly forced into menial labor, hauling buckets of human waste to be used as fertilizer and hauling rocks out of the tiny mine shaft. One day, the community tailor comes to the village, along with his teenage granddaughter, and both boys quickly fall in love with her. She's not like the other peasants, she has a curious mind that doesn't necessarily fall in line with Mao's ideals. She steals the boys' alarm clock and takes it apart to see how the animal on the face worked. She builds models of the airplanes she sees fly overhead. The boys decide to teach her to read, and they find a stash of banned books one of the other re-trainees has smuggled into the village. "Xiao Cai Feng" is fairly subtle in it's demonstration of the evils of ignorance in a totalitarian society, unfortunately the same subtlety isn't applied to the love triangle element of the story. However, it is a beautiful and compelling (well, most of the time it's compelling) movie nonetheless.

Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer


As per usual in these types of films, it's beautiful but stunningly boring. But then again, so was the book.

Jennifer Xu

Super Reviewer

I had read the book (on which this film is based) a few years back and thought it should be made into a movie. Well, it actually had been made into a f ilm. Now that I've finally seen it, it goes to show how powerful this story is. Set during the communist re-education period of China's histroy, the uplifting, emotional power of forbidden music, forbidden books and forbidden love are timeless and are so poetic in this adaptation. It proves that artistic and creative thinking cannot be supressed and are the great and noble characteristics that make up the human spirit. It also helps that the author of the book (largely autobiographical) is also the film's director. NOTE: Chinese, with English subtitles.

Rico Zamora

Super Reviewer

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