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A quiet film that contemplates how history impacts personal lives, charting a mother and son as they experience China under Mao between 1950 and 1968. The film is broken into three parts (Dad, Uncle, and Stepfather), representing the three husbands of the central character, Shujuan (played by Liping Lü), and the three great upheavals in Mao's era, Rectification & the Hundred Flowers Movement, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution. Director Zhuangzhuang Tian had to smuggle this film out of China in order to complete the editing and postproduction in Japan and the movie was subsequently banned in China. Indeed, it takes a very critical stance toward the events of this period, which see the optimistic Shujuan and her husband embracing the new Communist Party of China only to discover later that whispers about "counter-revolutionaries" could be used to send people to forced labour camps. The Hundred Flowers Movement may have encouraged critiques of the government but these were later used against those brave enough to speak out. The family is subsequently impacted by Mao's decision to move the entire country to new collective agricultural techniques during the Great Leap Forward which lead to widespread and devastating famine. Many died of malnutrition. Finally, when Shujuan makes the decision to marry a Party elder in order to provide a better life for her rascally son, Tietou (or "Iron Head"), the Cultural Revolution emboldens the young students who make up the Red Guards to attack those seen to be bourgeois or elite. So, in some ways, the film is a tragedy, but it also speaks to the power of family and community bonds, as the mother and son, and their friends and relatives who share a courtyard in Beijing, weather the chaos of these events (which are not didactically explained - I used Wikipedia later to better understand them). As dramatic as these upheavals seem, it is hard not to wonder about the coming decades or century, when even more intense dramas may be in store for our children (as a result of global warming, over-population, and their consequences). Indeed, there are places in the world where upheavals affect personal lives now (Syria or Burma, for example; it is easy to generate a depressing list). The Blue Kite reminds us not to ignore those who suffer from political decisions (as there but for good luck and good fortune go we).
I'll make you another one
The film is a gently biting, transporting portrait of unspoken truth and innocence lost. The undeniable authenticity of it leaves a mark.
If you are a right-wing viewer, just don't view this masterpiece as left-wing propaganda, as that is what this film simply is not. "The Blue Kite", however, is an act of political courage.
Full review at filmbroadcaster.weebly.com
Films like this one are why I don't let politics discourage me from watching movies.
the film's humanity shines through
A well made film but monotonous
On paper communism must have seemed like the socio-economical equality that the Chinese people had been denied by a century of humiliation from feudal states and foreign powers ruling from abroad.
Karl Marx viewed communism as the final stage in humanity; society without class, state, or oppression.
Ironically, communist nations have historically been authoritarian states that view even suggestion as a form of subversion.
In "The Blue Kite" Chairman Mao Zedong's communist utopia is measured against one nuclear family in Beijing, opening in 1953, whose youngest male member narrates the film -- from beyond? -- his adolescence marked by three distinct periods in Red China's formative years (Anti-Rightist Movement, Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution).
These three periods are split into three chapters, which coincide with the three men who are married to the boy's mother beginning with his biological father.
By the end of "The Blue Kite" all three men will die from direct or indirect effects of Mao's aggressive, paranoid brand of Agrarian Socialism.
"The Blue Kite" is a paragon of a slow burn. Fifth Generation filmmaker Tian Zhuangzhuang takes his time establishing the atmosphere of early '50s Beijing and the characters who live in and around it that are happy for the things they have in life: food, clothing, shelter, and one another. Suffice to say, slowly, but surely, as government policies become greyer the hope once shared by the family gradually dims.
"The Blue Kite," to no surprise, was censored by the Chinese government upon completion in 1993 and Tian banned from filmmaking for nearly a decade. Audiences in need of a faster, more melodramatic telling of the same ground covered in "The Blue Kite" should consult "To Live" (released the following year to the same domestic consequence) by Tian's Fifth Generation peer Zhang Yimou. Both films have since gone on to wide international acclaim.
The best Chinese movie ever made, and it is STILL banned there! Covers the period from the rise and take over of the red army. Re-education of the populace, and the four year plans and their aftermath. Brutally honest, and humanistic. A must see for everyone interested in life within Communist China.