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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2005)

tomatometer

77

Average Rating: 6.7/10
Reviews Counted: 62
Fresh: 48 | Rotten: 14

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

88

Average Rating: 7.3/10
Critic Reviews: 26
Fresh: 23 | Rotten: 3

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

audience

83

liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 4,597

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My Rating

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

Dec 27, 2005

$0.3M

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All Critics (71) | Top Critics (29) | Fresh (48) | Rotten (14) | DVD (4)

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.

March 18, 2010 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

January 12, 2006 Full Review Source: Arizona Republic
Arizona Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[A] tribute to the transforming power of books.

November 23, 2005 Full Review Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

November 17, 2005 Full Review Source: Dallas Morning News
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[A] charmer.

November 11, 2005 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop 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 IconTop Critic

A dullish though quite watchable lyrical coming-of-age love triangle drama set in the 1970s during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

March 24, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Anyone expecting something either insightful or unusual will be disappointed.

March 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

will appeal primarily to literary and artistic mentalities

January 23, 2006 Full Review Source: Old School Reviews

Seamstress doesn't inspire the same kind of fervent devotion its principals feel when confronted with art, but it does make a pleasant enough diversion.

December 11, 2005 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

A number of memorable set pieces illuminate the world around this subdued romantic triangle.

December 2, 2005 Full Review Source: Oregonian
Oregonian

Skillfully done...but the broader historical context may make one just a tad queasy reveling in its visual and emotional excesses.

November 26, 2005 Full Review Source: One Guy's Opinion
One Guy's Opinion

Beautifully photographed, Balzac is a sometimes edgy journey that lands gently, but effectively on the mind.

November 19, 2005

[A] big, beautifully photographed and somewhat mushy film.

November 11, 2005 Full Review Source: Orlando Weekly
Orlando Weekly

The three main characters make a fabulous threesome - they settle into a very comfortable arrangement even though you can feel the sexual tension just under the surface.

November 9, 2005 Full Review Source: TheMovieChicks.com

The real star here is the Chinese landscape, which is lush and inviting. Cinematographer Jean-Marie Dreujou and his crews have done a good job of capturing its beauty.

October 14, 2005 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Sometimes the movie is a bit too gentle, moving at an energy-sapping pace, but one must respect Dai's ability to put criticism of Maoist doctrine onscreen at all.

October 14, 2005
Salt Lake Tribune

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress won't blow you away with its originality, but I doubt if this sort of movie has ever been as pretty and delicate.

October 7, 2005 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

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.
February 27, 2009
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.
February 9, 2009
jennifxu

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.
July 13, 2006
flickfever

Super Reviewer

A coming-of-age story with breathtaking footage of a remote mountain village in China. It takes place during the Cultural Revolution and is about two friends who both fall in love with the same young beauty. The tale is gripping. It will make you laugh and also empathize with the character's pain.
February 18, 2009
crazydannielle16

Super Reviewer

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Latest News on Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

December 20, 2005:
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics 2005 Awards
December 19, 2005 -- DALLAS-FORT WORTH FILM CRITICS NAME ?BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN? BEST OF 2005. The...

Foreign Titles

  • Balzac und die kleine chinesische Schneiderin (DE)
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Xiao cai feng) (CA)
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