Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Critics Consensus

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



Reviews Counted: 62

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Average Rating: 3.8/5

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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 symbol of the bourgeoisie. Luo and Ma both fall in love with the little Chinese seamstress (Ziiou Xun), the daughter of the tailor (Chung Zhijun), and they read her forbidden works of Western literature including French writers Balzac and Dumas. The conclusion finds the two men reminincing about their experiences 30 years later. Balzac et La Petite Tailleuse Chinoise premiered at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.

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Xun Zhou
as Little Chinese Seamstress
Shuangbao Wang
as Village Head
Chung Zhijun
as Old Tailor
Zhijun Cong
as Old Tailor
Wang Hong Wei
as Four Eyes
Hong Wei Wang
as Four Eyes
Xiao Xiung
as Four Eyes' mother
Chen Wei
as village chief's wife
Chen Tianlu
as commune head
Min Jie
as peasant
Zhang Heng
as peasant
Xu Yukum
as peasant
Mei Ling Tan
as villager
Jing Fang
as villager
Peng Li
as villager
Zhao Hengfei
as villager
Liu Yao
as Villager
Chen Yulin
as villager
Xu Chunhua
as villager
Su Wa
as village chief's pretty daughter
Quiléne Boileux
as airport saleswoman
Yang Dandan
as Madame Luo
Guy-Pierre Bennet
as voice of journalist
Xiao Ziong
as Four Eyes' Mother
Mi Jie
as Peasant
Mei Lina
as Villager
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News & Interviews for Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Critic Reviews for Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

All Critics (62) | Top Critics (27)

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.

Devon Bott
Devon Bott

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.

Dannielle Albert
Dannielle Albert

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
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
Rico Zamora

Super Reviewer

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