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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Reviews

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Mr Awesome
Mr Awesome

Super Reviewer

February 27, 2009
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.
Jennifer X

Super Reviewer

February 9, 2009
As per usual in these types of films, it's beautiful but stunningly boring. But then again, so was the book.
Rico Z

Super Reviewer

July 3, 2006
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.
Dannielle A

Super Reviewer

February 18, 2009
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.
jimbotender
jimbotender

Super Reviewer

January 9, 2009
I was wooed by the call of the wild,oh the poetic motion and oh the indiscreet nature of the protagonists.Mesmerizing to the end of social inflation,the political scenery is a stereotypical background,erotica and affliction in the countryside is what makes this film move around.Such brilliance near the mountains.
August 10, 2010
Three of the most talented actors from China are starred in this surprisingly sweet and romantic film.
marevalo83
April 16, 2010
Though slow at times, and particularly at the beginning, I found the story gripping and quite a bit of it rather endearing.
January 28, 2008
Nice little story set during a pretty interesting/bizarre period of Chinese history. Only thing I didn't like was how it just kinda ends.
manada1
July 25, 2007
I was disappointed, because the book was utterly fantastic and the movie just wasn't. It was a beautiful movie, but just not what I had pictured in my mind. and the current events deal? just. no.
September 22, 2011
I found this story very interesting, although not as in empowering in the film version as in the book. I thought the excellent coverage of the time of the cultural Revolution and the alienation of the intelligentsia was strong in the film but even stronger in the book. I'm not sure why the excellent ending of the book was altered for the film. Generally a very good film, and certainly worth watching, but an even stronger book.
dfwforeignbuff
October 24, 2009
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2002) In 1971, in the China of Mao Tse Tung, the two university students Luo (Kun Chen) and Ma (Ye Liu) are sent to a mountain mining village with very ignorant peasants and also a Maoist rehabilitation camp, to be reeducated. Both fall in love for the illiterate granddaughter of the local tailor, called "little seamstress". They become friends, and Luo and Ma steal forbidden books of western literature, and while they read the books and teach the little seamstress, they also tell the story to the community and play classical music in the violin, developing and improving their lives. What a magnificent and beautiful movie is "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress". In a wonderful landscape with stunning scenery, this revolutionary love story about the importance of books to improve the life of people is very believable and I am not sure whether it is based on a true story. The good things first: The acting was commendable with Kun Chen and Ye Liu delightfully light - hearted despite the circumstances, Xun Zhuo playing a simple yet intelligent girl and Shuangbao Wang in his portrayal of the stern, severe Comrade Brigadier. Still, the film falls flat because of slow, plodding scripting, bad dialogue (which could be the fault of the translation in parts) and an overall failure to evoke emotions. The audience never gets the impression that there is love between the two young intellectuals and the seamstress. This may stem from cultural differences, but for me as a western viewer, their relation seems sterile. I enjoyed this movie but it is somewhat overtly sentimental for my taste. This is a fairly enjoyable not too serious movie. I always enjoy looks at other cultures. Three stars four stars depending on your mood. I wish he had played more music.
Ivonne Koehler
April 12, 2009
I dont understand how they can entitle a move as a novel when actually they change the story. This is not the first movie i seen that it doesnt respect so well the book it comes from...I have certain bad examples like The kite runner, and other good like The perfume, and the Name of the rose, even if this last movie doesnt look very simmilar to Eco´s book, it is an ejoyable movie. But with this one thats not the case, they skip certain chapters that in the book are unforgetable!!! They neither get in the little seamstress personality as well she is pretty ugly in the film!!!! Maybe it will have a better score for those people had not read the book, but for me!!! Argggg...even the end, the modern end...
Mr Awesome
Mr Awesome

Super Reviewer

February 27, 2009
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.
shutterbug
February 8, 2006
A beautiful foreign film celebrating freedom and literature.
AgentCopyKat
December 30, 2005
I was looking over the previous entry when I noticed that I had seen a few movies before and during exam week that I completely forgot about, not to mention the movie I saw two nights ago, Finding Neverland.

Balzac - this movie was beautiful. Beautiful. I saw it in a very historic theater with a good friend and although I did not cry at the end, I was touched by the emotional story of two friends falling in love with the same girl by reading her forbidden books (such as the story by Balzac). The rural mountains of China (where I think this was filmed) took my breath away.

Ocean's Twelve - I saw Oceans Eleven and I knew that the sequel wasn't as good, but we watched it anyways because my roommate and I did not want to study for exams. It was funny, but Julia Roberts playing Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis suddenly appearing in the middle of the movie playing himself as well did not bode well for the plot. It was a stretch, I barely laughed, and the ending was your typical explanation of how everything 'went down.' Whatever. It is a forgettable movie and that is why I forgot that I had even seen it.

Intolerable Cruelty - You must watch this bomb from the very beginning and you cannot leave. If you do, your friends will HATE explaining who is against who and who is tricking who. George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones try to make a movie that is fast-paced in its wit but only end up doing dances around each other while stumbling over bad timing and even worse dialogue. She said WHAT? Did he just ??? My friends and I even stopped the movie so we could watch something else, but ended up putting this back in the DVD player. It was bad until the scene with the asmatic hit-man. We had been holding in our frustration but that scene burst our bubble and we could not stop laughing. What a stupid twist in the plot. But I laughed so hard. My friends and I could not believe how awful . . . argh . . . I can't write about it anymore . . . it boggles my mind even now that two movie stars made such a bad movie. I would have rated it lower had that scene at the end not made it all worth it.

And finally, Finding Neverland. This was a beautiful movie and Johnny Depp shines as J.M Barrie, complete with a few nervous ticks from Pirates of the Carribean. He seems to dive into each role so completely that as I watched the movie, I forgot that I was watching Depp and truly believed J.M Barrie was there in front of me. The scenes with the children can be described as adorable but not in a cutsie kind of way - more child-like and accurate than anything else. I was surprised to learn about J.M Barrie's past and how he encorporated it into his play of Peter Pan. Kate Winslet does a great job, but I believe the role was almost written for her. Dustin Hoffman makes an appearance as the theater owner, disguised behind the period costume. The "Finding Neverland" motif of the movie is brilliantly woven into the plot and this biographical movie makes me want to know more about the mind behind Hook and the lost boys. I highly recommend this movie for you and a friend, date, family, or even solo. The magic of theater, the profound score, and the peek into the observations of Barrie's imagination will change how you look at "Peter Pan" or any other play/production. There is always a story behind the story, and I am glad that Barrie's story was finally told.
tpmedia
August 27, 2005
Fascinating film. Interesting tale. Probably makes a fine read as well.
anaisethenry
January 3, 2005
I was in France when I saw this movie was coming out. My neighbor had the read the book and recomended it, I actually went out and bought it. It could be my infatuation with China, but I devoured it (it wasn't very long) and was eager to see the movie. I enjoyed it immensely because I was able to see the beautiful landscapes that are simply indescribeable in any book. That is what most impressed me with the movie, which reminds me that I would like to watch it again.
Wizard
January 5, 2004
January, 5th - theatre:

The basic idea of the film is likeable. In a Chinese camp for re-education in the mountains two boys and that little Chinese seamstress discover a box of books. Reading this literature changes their lives. The film is message-wise similar to "Dead Poets' Society" and "Cinema Paradiso". The main problem I had with this film was that it tries to bring home that message with a sledge-hammer too often. I stopped counting how often the characters said things like, "Literature changed my life.", Director Sijie violates the good old "Show, don't say"-rule too often. It betrays its character, because it alwas feels a little unbelievable.
On the other hand there were quite a lot of nice images that save this film, that's far from bad, but not really recommended either.
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