Huang tu di (Yellow Earth) Reviews

  • Jan 03, 2018

    Chen Kaige's Chinese Communist propaganda film is beautifully filmed and acted.

    Chen Kaige's Chinese Communist propaganda film is beautifully filmed and acted.

  • Mar 31, 2015

    Symbolic images & vivid illustration of the origin of art

    Symbolic images & vivid illustration of the origin of art

  • Jan 29, 2014

    My first Chinese film saw at NFT Southbank in the Summer 1985. Cinematographic Sumptuousness. Fell in Love with Chinese Cinema for the next 10 years. Sets Very High Standards in Art Direction, Cinematography and Editing.

    My first Chinese film saw at NFT Southbank in the Summer 1985. Cinematographic Sumptuousness. Fell in Love with Chinese Cinema for the next 10 years. Sets Very High Standards in Art Direction, Cinematography and Editing.

  • Jan 29, 2014

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  • Jul 24, 2013

    I couldn't stop thinking about this movie for a long time after watching it. The sparseness of it haunted me- the plot, the dialogue, the land. The film shows you what it looks like to literally eke out a living. Life for the peasants of Shaanbei is about survival in its most primal sense- staving off hunger. Children exist solely to provide labor and as a form of currency, to be traded to other families through marriage. The peasants' existence is so stark that there is almost no need for language. The family rarely speaks to each other. However, though little is said, much is felt. The peasants express their laments through songs, the only way they know how. Yet, though songs can liberate Cuiqiao's feelings, they ultimately cannot free her from her bondage, as she notes in her last song. And, as the ending scene of the rain prayer ritual reminds us, no one in the village can free themselves from their bondage to the earth. The vast, dry, timeless landscape dominates the frame in many shots; the people are helpless before it, as they have been since time immemorial. The earth is what drives them to look up toward heaven, as they do at the end of the film. An alternative direction is Communism, symbolized by Gu Qing standing on the horizon, whom Hanhan struggles toward against the current of the masses. Yet Gu Qing's figure disappears before Hanhan could get to him, and the camera ultimately points down and settles its view on the yellow earth. The power of the film owes much to its economical editing. On Cuiqiao's wedding day, we never see her getting onto the sedan chair, only her father picking up the empty straw seat Ciuqiao used to sit on after the wedding procession leaves. In her bridal chamber, we see the dark, arthritic hands of Cuiqiao's groom but never his face. The effect is all the more chilling and poignant.

    I couldn't stop thinking about this movie for a long time after watching it. The sparseness of it haunted me- the plot, the dialogue, the land. The film shows you what it looks like to literally eke out a living. Life for the peasants of Shaanbei is about survival in its most primal sense- staving off hunger. Children exist solely to provide labor and as a form of currency, to be traded to other families through marriage. The peasants' existence is so stark that there is almost no need for language. The family rarely speaks to each other. However, though little is said, much is felt. The peasants express their laments through songs, the only way they know how. Yet, though songs can liberate Cuiqiao's feelings, they ultimately cannot free her from her bondage, as she notes in her last song. And, as the ending scene of the rain prayer ritual reminds us, no one in the village can free themselves from their bondage to the earth. The vast, dry, timeless landscape dominates the frame in many shots; the people are helpless before it, as they have been since time immemorial. The earth is what drives them to look up toward heaven, as they do at the end of the film. An alternative direction is Communism, symbolized by Gu Qing standing on the horizon, whom Hanhan struggles toward against the current of the masses. Yet Gu Qing's figure disappears before Hanhan could get to him, and the camera ultimately points down and settles its view on the yellow earth. The power of the film owes much to its economical editing. On Cuiqiao's wedding day, we never see her getting onto the sedan chair, only her father picking up the empty straw seat Ciuqiao used to sit on after the wedding procession leaves. In her bridal chamber, we see the dark, arthritic hands of Cuiqiao's groom but never his face. The effect is all the more chilling and poignant.

  • Feb 25, 2012

    It's hard to talk about this movie beyond its cinematography and the artistry of its visuals. Not because there's nothing beyond those two, but rather because those two are just so unbelievably well-done that it's hard to concentrate on anything else. This is a movie that deserves to be seen on the big screen if that's in any way possible. Because if you manage to do so, you will be sucked in from the very first frame. The vastness of Shanbei's landscape is capture beautifully in this film and at some points I found myself totally ignoring the dialogue and what was going on with the characters in favour of just admiring the scenery. Though that isn't really a compliment. As I said in the beginning, this movie has a cinematography that's almost too good. The story only barely manages to keep up, which is a shame, because it's not a bad story. I found myself liking these characters, their unique characteristics and their actors, who were all very talented and natural for their roles. And I kind of liked the music and all of the songs as well. The latter ones took some getting used to, as they were so very different from what I usually listen to, but they had their own charm and power of emotion going for them. So I really liked this film. Is it a masterpiece? No, not really. Cinematography alone doesn't make a masterful movie, and while the story is good, it's not that good. Still, I'd definitely recommend this one to almost anyone. It's a bit slow and nothing much actually happens, but it's a powerful piece to witness.

    It's hard to talk about this movie beyond its cinematography and the artistry of its visuals. Not because there's nothing beyond those two, but rather because those two are just so unbelievably well-done that it's hard to concentrate on anything else. This is a movie that deserves to be seen on the big screen if that's in any way possible. Because if you manage to do so, you will be sucked in from the very first frame. The vastness of Shanbei's landscape is capture beautifully in this film and at some points I found myself totally ignoring the dialogue and what was going on with the characters in favour of just admiring the scenery. Though that isn't really a compliment. As I said in the beginning, this movie has a cinematography that's almost too good. The story only barely manages to keep up, which is a shame, because it's not a bad story. I found myself liking these characters, their unique characteristics and their actors, who were all very talented and natural for their roles. And I kind of liked the music and all of the songs as well. The latter ones took some getting used to, as they were so very different from what I usually listen to, but they had their own charm and power of emotion going for them. So I really liked this film. Is it a masterpiece? No, not really. Cinematography alone doesn't make a masterful movie, and while the story is good, it's not that good. Still, I'd definitely recommend this one to almost anyone. It's a bit slow and nothing much actually happens, but it's a powerful piece to witness.

  • Nov 05, 2011

    I gotta say I get the movie but it was the slowest movie I've ever seen. Slower than I could've imagined a movie. And I love "Spring Summer Fall Winter And Spring" :p.

    There was no real reason. This is a half hour story in 90 minutes time. Lovely though the film & the shooting are by Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou!! It was tough to get through. One viewing is probably too many. If you want a snail-paced 80s movie that's excellent, try Red Sorghum.

    I gotta say I get the movie but it was the slowest movie I've ever seen. Slower than I could've imagined a movie. And I love "Spring Summer Fall Winter And Spring" :p.

    There was no real reason. This is a half hour story in 90 minutes time. Lovely though the film & the shooting are by Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou!! It was tough to get through. One viewing is probably too many. If you want a snail-paced 80s movie that's excellent, try Red Sorghum.

  • Jan 14, 2011

    Has Its Nice Momenta Albeit A Bit Boring At Times. Wonderfully Shot And Framed Though.

    Has Its Nice Momenta Albeit A Bit Boring At Times. Wonderfully Shot And Framed Though.

  • Nov 03, 2010

    Not as grandiose as Chen's later film Farewell, My Concubine... this is a small-scale story about the problems of the poor, rural Chinese and Communism's failure to solve them. Again, it reminded me of Zhang Yimou, especially his earlier films, and no wonder: Zhang was the cinematographer on this. I thought it was generally very well done, and wisely keeps the running time short for such a simple story. The use of songs was quite nice, although I thought it was unnecessary to augment them with instruments (including some that occasionally sounded like synthesizers, but I could be mistaken). Good performances, too. Not a "rock your world" type of movie, but a solid and subtle one.

    Not as grandiose as Chen's later film Farewell, My Concubine... this is a small-scale story about the problems of the poor, rural Chinese and Communism's failure to solve them. Again, it reminded me of Zhang Yimou, especially his earlier films, and no wonder: Zhang was the cinematographer on this. I thought it was generally very well done, and wisely keeps the running time short for such a simple story. The use of songs was quite nice, although I thought it was unnecessary to augment them with instruments (including some that occasionally sounded like synthesizers, but I could be mistaken). Good performances, too. Not a "rock your world" type of movie, but a solid and subtle one.

  • Apr 06, 2010

    From a forum I post at: Yellow Earth seems to follow the same path that the "imperfect cinema" of Cuba (Memories of Underdevelopment, like I mentioned last week) and the "cinema novo" of Brazil take in producing a film that is ultimately rewarding and provocative but only after extreme introspection and a very loooooong two hours of fighting off sleep. There's something about movies made from third world countries about the post angst of their revolution, or rather the lack of angst and just passive, defeated indifference, that seems to meddle in between conflict and drag. In a way, it's a very good thing because it makes the films unforgettable for some innovative composition and deep subtext and subject matter, but it doesn't strike me as the most effective way of teaching and provoking actions towards their country because I think it dissuades people from recommending the film to others simply out of its sheer boredom.

    From a forum I post at: Yellow Earth seems to follow the same path that the "imperfect cinema" of Cuba (Memories of Underdevelopment, like I mentioned last week) and the "cinema novo" of Brazil take in producing a film that is ultimately rewarding and provocative but only after extreme introspection and a very loooooong two hours of fighting off sleep. There's something about movies made from third world countries about the post angst of their revolution, or rather the lack of angst and just passive, defeated indifference, that seems to meddle in between conflict and drag. In a way, it's a very good thing because it makes the films unforgettable for some innovative composition and deep subtext and subject matter, but it doesn't strike me as the most effective way of teaching and provoking actions towards their country because I think it dissuades people from recommending the film to others simply out of its sheer boredom.