“Hamlet” - Grigori Kozintsev (1964)

Shakespeare’s Hamlet, like many of his works, is rather complicated and has been difficult to film for presentation to general audiences.  There are multiple threads of revenge, and the main character is persistently morose and obsessed with his own futility.  On top of that, most staged versions of the play last four hours, which is a long time for an audience to sit through.  And yet Hamlet is probably Shakespeare’s most famous and popular work, which is probably due to the play’s profoundly existentialistic tone and theme.  Capturing this melancholy and thoughtful tone is the principal challenge of anyone who films Hamlet, and this would presumably require someone very sensitive to the nuances of the main character’s moody and pensive soliloquies.  Nevertheless, probably the best job has been done, not by an English-speaking creative team, but by Russian filmmaker Grigori Kozintsev and his production colleagues.  Kozintsev’s Hamlet (Gamlet, 1964), which he adapted from Boris Pasternak’s translation of Shakespeare’s play, is an expressionistic tour de force that is likely to enthrall most viewers.  And Kozintsev managed to cover all the material in a relatively brisk two hours and twenty minutes.

Shooting the film during the “Khrushchev Thaw” (1954-64), when Russian censorship was somewhat more relaxed, and having by this time considerable cultural stature of his own, Kozintsev had relative artistic freedom to pursue his own goals and make a truly expressive film [1].  The film’s production values under Kozintsev’s supervision – including the cinematography by Jonas Gricius, the music by Dmitri Shostakovich, and the acting performances – are excellent throughout. 

Following his own instincts, some of Kozintsev’s artistic modifications to the play are notably well conceived.  For one thing, the nature of the film medium enabled him to stage some of Hamlet’s soliloquies more appropriately as thoughtful meditations in voiceover.  More importantly, Kozintsev chose to stage a number of key scenes outside , in front of his castle and by the shore near a turbulent sea [2].

Indeed, the many shots of the relentlessly churning sea provide a key visual metaphor for man’s existential loneliness in the face of a universe of surrounding nothingness and an inevitable fate of meaningless oblivion.  Hamlet feels this all-encompassing sense of meaninglessness to the world – not only as an absence of justice and love but also a meaninglessness to life, itself.  This was a truly modern sense of despair and alienation that we, immersed in our conventional materialistic understanding of reality, can all feel.  In this connection Saviour Catania observed [2]:
“Worth mentioning is that Kozintsev settled for the beach as the setting for the ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy after experimenting with various other locations.  His choice was finally determined by his belief that the rocky Crimean beach could be made to embody and partake of the metaphysical issues at stake.“
In addition, Kozintsev uses images of the turbulent sea to separate the theatrical acts that make up Shakespeare’s narrative. 

The five acts encompass a story that tells of nine murders, including one suicide, which engender compulsive desires for “justice” and revenge.

Act 1

At the outset, Prince of Denmark Hamlet (played by Innokenty Smoktunovsky) is shown grieving over (a) the recent death of his father, King Hamlet, and (b) the fact that within an unseemly two months his widowed mother, Gertrude (Elza Radzina), had married his uncle, the deceased king’s brother, Claudius (Mikhail Nazvanov).  This means that Claudius has now assumed the throne.

New King Claudius has an elderly advisor, Polonius (Yuri Tolubeyev), whose two children, Laertes (Stepan Oleksenko) and Ophelia (Anastasiya Vertinskaya), are shown discussing Prince  Hamlet’s romantic overtures to Ophelia.  Laertes warns his sister to keep a distance from Hamlet, but Ophelia insists that Hamlet’s expression of romantic interest have been sincere.

Then Hamlet is informed by his friend Horatio (Vladimir Erenberg) that last night he saw the ghost of Hamlet’s father on the ramparts outside the castle.   They arrange to see if they can see the ghost the next night, and when they do so, the mournful ghost informs his son that Claudius had murdered him and that Hamlet should avenge his death. 

Not sure whether to believe this apparition or not, Hamlet tells Horatio that he will investigate the truth of the ghost’s claims and that for the time being he will feign madness in order to facilitate his investigations.

Act 2
With Hamlet now showing signs of madness, the suspicious Claudius urges two of Hamlet’s friends, Rosencrantz (Igor Dmitriev) and Guildenstern (Vadim Medvedev), to spy on his nephew.

Hamlet, for his part, comes upon a traveling theater troop and arranges for them to soon stage a play, The Murder of Gonzago, which will have some of Hamlet’s own words inserted into the dialogue of the murder scene, which will feature details in accordance with what the ghost told him about his own murder.  Hamlet’s intention is to see if upon watching this scene performed, Claudius will react guiltily.

Act 3 
Walking alone outside near the water, Hamlet has his famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy, during which he questions the meaningfulness and unlikely persistence of life.  Then Hamlet and Ophelia have a conversation, during which Hamlet, still feigning lunacy, furiously rejects her love. 

Later The Murder of Gonzago play is performed before the royal family and entourage, with Hamlet and Horatio checking Claudius’s reaction to the murder scene.  Sure enough, Claudius is seen clearly to be upset.  

(This is the end of Part 1 of this two-part film.)

Now Gertrude, upset over her son’s seeming madness, summons Hamlet to her chamber.  But Polonius, just to help ensure Gertrude’s safety, decides to hide behind a curtain in her room.  When Hamlet arrives, he gets into an intemperate argument with his mother.  In the ensuing commotion, he hears a noise from behind the curtain, which he assumes must be Claudius, and he thrusts his knife into the curtain, killing Polonius.

Act 4
To get his erratic nephew out of the way, Claudius sends Hamlet, along with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, off to study in England.  However, on the way, Hamlet discovers that his two erstwhile friends are secretly carrying an official letter ordering the execution of Hamlet upon arrival in England.  So Hamlet manages to surreptitiously exchange this letter with a forged one of his own condemning Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, instead. 

Meanwhile Ophelia, with her father murdered and the one she loves, Hamlet, having rudely rejected her, goes mad, herself.  She eventually commits suicide.  Also, her brother Laertes returns from studying abroad and finding his family in ruins, demands revenge.

Act 5 
The still brooding Hamlet now returns to Denmark and hooks up with his friend Horatio outside the castle.  They soon encounter a funeral procession for Ophelia, which is how Hamlet shockingly learns of his beloved’s death. 

Also, Laertes is seeking revenge for what has happened to his family, so Claudius arranges for Laertes and Hamlet to have a “sporting” honor duel with swords.  However, he will ensure that Laertes’s sword is poison-tipped, and just to make sure that Hamlet dies, he also prepares a poisoned goblet for Hamlet to drink from.

When the duel is formally conducted with Claudius, Gertrude, and other courtiers in attendance, a sequence of deadly events quickly ensues.  Gertrude mistakenly drinks from Hamlet’s poisoned goblet, and both Hamlet and Laertes get fatally wounded by the poisoned sword.  And when Hamlet then learns from Laertes’s dying words about Claudius’s perfidy, he fatally stabs Claudius.  But Hamlet, himself, is dying, and with his last strength, he staggers outside and looks out onto the sea’s waters of oblivion as he dies.

The image of Hamlet as the existentially lonely protagonist is again metaphorically emphasized with these last shots, as Saviour Catania has observed [2]:
“For Kozintsev’s is a world where Hamlet wanders for the most part lonely in a crowd. Significantly, there is a dire need in Kozintsev’s Hamlet to return to the rocky beach whose comfort he seeks in his death-scene. Admittedly, Horatio does accompany the dying Hamlet to the beach, but the focus is not their relationship. Kozintsev’s interest lies in considering Hamlet as a figure apart.”

Indeed, the film’s expressionistic cinematography is expertly crafted to conjure up this feeling of Hamlet’s doomed isolation.  The film was shot in cinemascope, whose wide-screened imagery makes the subjects in the frame surrounded by the bleak surroundings and therefore less visually significant.  In addition, there are few closeups throughout, which further de-emphasizes the importance of the individual in the frame.  Many of the shots of figures are taken from a low angle, with the high, dark, and forbidding walls of the castle in the background, and this also conveys a mood of people at bay and continually threatened by unknown forces that are “out there”.

I also thought that the slight alterations that Kozintsev made to Shakespeare’s script were beneficial, particularly the enhancement to Ophelia’s presence, the emotive acting for which was exceptionally well performed by actress Anastasiya Vertinskaya.

In the end, the so-called quest for “justice” in Hamlet has had dire consequences and has only worsened the main character’s feeling of existential loneliness.  Overall, nine people have been killed – Hamlet, Laertes, Claudius, Polonius, Ophelia, Gertrude, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Hamlet Sr. – and Hamlet, himself, bears responsibility for six of these deaths.  There is greed, guilt, and vengeful resentment, but no salvation.  The story does not offer a way out of the existential mystery that it explores, but it does convey and evoke feelings that we, ourselves, often have about the futility of human existence.  Kozintsev’s rendition of Shakespeare’s work does a good job of evoking these feelings that go beyond their textual presentation, as well as our textual understanding of our own experiences.
★★★★

Notes:
  1. Peter Sellars, “Peter Sellars on Grigori Kozintsev”, King Lear (DVD), Facets Video, (2007). 
  2. Catania, Saviour, "The Beached Verge": On Filming the Unfilmable in Grigori Kozintsev's Hamlet", Enter Text: An Interactive Interdisciplinary E-Journal for Cultural and Historical Studies and Creative Work, Brunel University. 1 (2): pp. 302–16, (2001).

“Marmoulak” - Kamal Tabrizi (2004)

Marmoulak (The Lizard, 2004) is a popular Iranian film that has been interpreted in somewhat different ways by different people.  Many people have seen it as a comedy, even a farce, but I considerate it to be a profound existential and social satire, more along the lines of Voltaire’s Candide (1759) or Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince (1943).  Indeed, explicit reference to de Saint-Exupéry’s famous novella is made in this story. 

The film concerns a prison convict who escapes by masquerading as an Islamic mullah and the ensuing complications that arise from his disguise.  Commercially released in Iran in 2004, the film was an instant smash hit with critics and at the box office [1,2].  But after concerns about the film were expressed by members of the Islamic clergy, the government banned the film after only three weeks.  The clerical critics were evidently concerned that the religion was being laughed at, but I would say that, on the contrary, the film offers a sympathetic portrait of how religious principles can enter into the lives of all types of people.  In fact some observers have connected this film’s message with the thinking of noted Iranian Islamic and Sufi thinker Abdolkarim  Soroush [3]

Nevertheless, Marmoulak is not just any narrowly-focused art house fare [3]. The film has excellent production values with a commercial-film cinematic pallette covering a spectrum of social activities.  It was directed by Kamal Tabrizi, written by Peyman Ghasem Khani, and with cinematography by Hamid Khozouie; and it features an outstanding acting performance by Parviz Parastui in the lead role.  (Parastui  would soon also appear in Border Café (Café Transit, 2005) and The Willow Tree (Beed-e Majnoon, 2005)).

The story of the film traces the actions of and what happens to Reza Meshgali, aka “Marmoulak”, which is the Farsi word for ‘Lizard’.  Reza has been given that nickname on account of his uncanny ability to climb high brick walls unaided, like a lizard.  However, note that in Farsi the term‘marmoulak’ is also used metaphorically to refer to a chameleon, which is a particular type of lizard that changes its skin color in order to adapt to its surroundings.  And in this story our Reza, The Lizard (played by Parviz Parastui) does seem to be a chameleon at various times when he alters his identity as the changing circumstances demand. 

Actually, confused labeling is a thematic undertone in this story.  On several occasions people get lost looking for an address, because street names and numbering have unaccountably been changed by the local authorities.  In addition, although in most stories or dramas, the creators are careful to make sure each character has a distinct name, in this story, in contrast, there are several people named Reza, the confusion concerning which is part of the plot.

However, the most basic theme concerns religious interpretation.  Over the course of Marmoulak’s narrative, the viewer is exposed to two distinct and contrasting ways of interpreting Islam (or virtually any religion, for that matter) [4]:
  1. Literal Rule Following – Adherence to rigid laws and associated sanctified text.  This adherence to traditional rules takes no account of context and the human feelings associated with any circumstantial context. 
     
  2. Loving Compassion – Adoption of the intrinsic and heartfelt directive to love and come to the aid of those in one’s surroundings in contextually appropriate ways. This is suggested in the film by the phrase, “there are as many ways to reach God as there are people.”
Associated with each of these two contrasting interpretations of the sacred teachings is a distinctive approach for leading others to the higher realms of being:
  • Literal Rule Following –> Punishment – the path to salvation is a forced march
     
  • Loving Compassion –> Taming (as outlined by the fox in de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince)
In this story, Reza, The Lizard, gradually and intuitively discovers the right path to follow.  In this connection, I will identify below (with “CA-#”) some moments in the narrative when Reza seems to take a step further in his progression towards compassionate altruism.

The story of Marmoulak plays out over the course of five acts.

1.  Reza, The Lizard, in Prison
Reza Meshgali, a small-time thief, has been sentenced to life imprisonment for armed robbery and is brought before the heartless prison warden Mojaver (played by Bahram Ebrahimi).  Mojaver is committed to spiritual restitution by imposing punishment, so we can see he follows the Literal Rule Following path.  He immediately sends Reza to a week of solitary confinement in order to help straighten him out. 

Later, when Reza is out of solitary and has a chance to wander in the prison courtyard, he rescues a pigeon caught in the barbed wire atop the prison wall by using his marmoulak skill to scale the wall and save the pigeon.  When Mojaver sees this, he reassigns Reza to another week of solitary confinement.  All of this “restitutional” punishment depresses Reza and makes him suicidal, an attempt for which lands him in the prison infirmary.

In the infirmary bed next to his, Reza finds not a prisoner, but a temporarily-ill mullah, Hajji Reza Ahmadi (played by Shahrokh Foroutanian, who also appeared in Going By (Az Kenar-e Ham Migozarim, 2001)).  Mullah Reza is not a sanctimonious preacher, but a sympathetic member of the working class.  He tells Reza, The Lizard, that there is no single path to God – “there are as many ways to reach God as there are people.”  Then he reads to him a passage from de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, where the fox tells the little prince to tame him.  When the prince asks the fox what that means, the fox responds that it means, “make me love you”.

Then Hajji Reza goes to take a shower, leaving on the bed his clerical garb, which Reza, The Lizard, opportunistically dons and uses as a disguise to escape from the prison. 

2.  On the Way to the Border Town
Reza’s goal is to escape to Turkey, so after stealing some money from a private taxi, he meets with an outlaw friend who tells him to travel to a border town and hook up with a Mahmoud Montazedi, who is a passport forger.  So, still wearing his mullah garb, Reza, who now calls himself “Hajji Reza”, boards a train headed for the border town.

In his private train car Reza is joined by two ladies, one of whom, Faezeh (Rana Azadvar), is young and pretty.  Reza, still the selfish nihilist at this pont, is instantly attracted.  The other woman is Faezeh’s mother, and she explains how she recently arranged for her daughter’s divorce from her thuggish and abusive husband.
  
On the long train ride Reza also meets some government officials who are impressed with having a hajji on their train and arrange for Reza to conduct a prayer session for the passengers at one stopover.  This is a scary proposition for Reza, but he somehow manages to fumble his way through it.

Upon arrival in the border town, Reza presumably hopes to disappear into the town, but he is unexpectedly met by some religious enthusiasts who have been excitedly awaiting the arrival of their new village mullah, who, by happenstance, is named “Hajji Reza”.  They usher him to their mosque, which hasn’t had a fully qualified mullah for a year.  At the mosque Reza happens to see a mute young boy staring at him.  This mute boy is seen on subsequent occasions throughout the film, and he seems to be a symbol of nonjudgemtal innocence.

Meanwhile back at the prison in Tehran, Mojaver is shown to be extremely upset over Reza’s escape.

3.  Reza, the Village Mullah 
Originally hoping to quickly grab his fake passport and disappear across the border, Reza now has the public eye upon him and finds himself forced to attend to the ritual duties of the mosque’s mullah.  Compelled to give a sermon to the assembled congregation, Reza tells all of them what he had just learned from the mullah he had met in prison (CA-1):
There are as many ways to reach God as there are people – even for the prisoner.
The listeners are inspired by this message, particularly two earnest young parishioners Gholamali (Hossein Soleiman) and Mojtaba (Cyrus Hemati).  They pepper Reza with all sorts of odd questions concerning Islamic ritual, such as 
  • How often does one pray at the North Pole, where a day lasts six months?
     
  • How should astronauts in outer space pray?
Reza uses his own intuition to give answers to these questions (CA-2 and CA-3), and the parishioners are further convinced of Reza’s divine enlightenment.  However, Reza stills has a ways to go.  After he sees Faezeh’s ex-husband, Javad Delangiz,  robbing a food store, his old habits cause him to urge the store owner to respond to this sort of thing with violence. 

Then after some difficulties, Reza makes it to Mahmoud Montazedi’s home where his grieving mother (Farideh Sepah Mansour ) informs him that her son has been imprisoned and that the fake passport is unavailable. 

4.  A Village Transformed
However, Reza’s idolizers, Gholamali and Mojtaba, have been surreptitiously tracking Reza’s evening meanderings in the poor village areas and wrongly impute these to be secretive acts of charity on the part of the mullah.  When these activities are reported to the other parishioners, they are even more convinced of Reza’s saintliness, and they all tearfully come to Reza’s quarters to provide him alms to give to the poor.

Meanwhile Mojaver, tracking Reza, has come to the border town, although he doesn’t know that Reza, unrecognizable in his clerical garb, is now the village mullah.

Reza, for his part, continues spreading his own version of the Word.  Walking through the park one day, he comes upon Gholamali talking alone with a single young woman.  Gholamali immediately expresses shame for this “sin”.  But Reza scoffs at such assumptions of guilt, telling the young man (CA-4),
“if He [God] were against these things, he wouldn’t give us the tools for mischief”. 
And later when he comes home, Reza learns that Javad Delangiz has been abusing Faezeh again, and he goes to Delangiz’s locked home to query him.  With a crowd of worshipful villagers looking on, Reza uses his marmoulak skills again to scale the wall of the home and confront Delangiz.  When Delangiz proves to be belligerent, Reza knocks him out cold with a professional head-butt.  When the man comes to, he realizes that he has met his match, and he instantly becomes a total convert, renouncing crime and now following the religious path.

However, Reza, still trying to escape the country, finds another person, a woman named Ozra, in the poor quarter who can make him a fake passport.  But just before she is about to do it, she receives alms from the former criminal Delangiz, and she, too, is moved to renounce illegal activities.  In fact Reza’s sermons at the mosque are now jam-packed with listeners, since shadier characters from the criminal underworld, influenced by  Delangiz’s conversion, are coming, too.

But now a power-hungry member of the upper class, Engineer Shojayi, hears about Hajji Reza’s renown and wants to use him to support his candidacy for parliament.  In this connection he forcibly ushers Reza to the local prison so that he can host a sermon by Reza to the prisoners there.  When the tremulous Reza assumes the pulpit, he is shocked to see Mojaver in the audience and is also moved to be asked to pass on wisdom to people of his own kind, i.e. prisoners.  Tearfully, he tells them (CA-5):
  • The gates of prison may be closed to you, but God’s gates are always open.
  • God doesn’t only belong to good people.
  • It is only God who doesn’t look at people differently.
  • We have to do something to tame people.  Taming means creating love.
  • Man is worthy of honor for his soul and humanity.  Beautiful attire does not reflect his worth.
  • I hope all of you will be released from here very soon and that you can find your path.  Please pray for me to find a path, as well
We now see that Reza’s forced assumption of piety has led to his own conversion, too. 

Afterwards, Reza and Shojayi are taken to a discussion room with prison officials, where the suspicious Mojaver, still not fully recognizing Reza, praises him for his eloquence.  But during this meeting, Reza overhears a loudspeaker announcement that prisoner Mahmoud Montazedi has been summoned to go the visitor’s room.  Reza quickly excuses himself from the discussion room to go to the toilet.  At the visitor’s room Reza learns from Montazedi that his mother does indeed have the fake passport for him and that he should go back to her and properly identify himself this time as Reza, The Lizard.

5.  Reza’s Exit
Reza goes back to Mahmoud Montazedi’s mother and collects the fake passport.  Then he goes to the border crossing, but he is told it is temporarily closed for a few hours, so he returns to town.  Back in the village, he comes upon Faezeh carrying some heavy shopping bags, and he offers to carry them for her to her home.  She gratefully accepts his offer, and she invites him for tea at her home, where she will be alone.  Reza is tempted by this offer, but he refuses it and gets the reformed Delangiz to carry her bags instead (CA-6).

But at the police station, Mojaver gets official word that the real Hajji Reza meant for this village had recently passed away, and that is why the villagers had mistakenly assumed that Reza, The Lizard, was their mullah when he arrived at the train station wearing clerical garb.  Mojaver also learns that Mahmoud Montazedi has testified that Reza was not armed during the crime they had committed together, and so Reza’s prison sentence should be reduced.  So Mojaver goes ahead and confronts Reza and has him taken into custody.
   
Before they are all to depart in the police car, Reza sees the mute boy one last time.  He hands over to the boy his clerical clothes, and he tells him they are helpful for taming people.   Reza adds further that it is good for people to become tamed (CA-7), and the boy responds softly, but audibly, in the affirmative.  Yes, he understands – and we do, too.

As the police car with Reza aboard drives off into the town, the final shot shows the mosque congregation listening to holy singing and being dimly aware of the background sound of the car being driven away.


Marmoulak is a well-crafted drama with excellent, nuanced acting performances, particularly on the part of Parviz Parastui in the title role.  An interesting narrative theme featured in the film is that of mistaken identity.  Reza’s masquerade as a mullah sometimes gets him out of trouble, but it also leads to some lost connections (such as with Mahmoud Montazedi’s mother and with city taxi cabs).  But in this case the mistaken identity also helps lead to the dissimulator taking on the virtues of his disguised role.

But at a deeper level, the film gives the viewer a beautifully dramatized depiction of the contrast between two distinctly different paths toward existential enlightenment:
  • rule-following driven by punishment and 
  • compassionate love driven by “taming”.
Mojaver espoused the former path, but Reza, The Lizard, found his way along the second path.  And Reza’s path was just one example of the unlimited number of ways of reaching compassionate spiritual fulfillment.  But all those many ways involve taming – adapting to the circumstances in order to generate and respond to love.  And this capacity for love is intrinsic to humanity and not some external notion that needs to be injected into inherently sinful human beings [5].  Religion, in its most benevolent form, can help us (tame us) to invoke that loving feeling that is appropriate for each of us.  This is what Marmoulak is showing us.  So Marmoulak does not make fun of religion; rather, the film shows an example of religion serving as a vehicle for evoking our intrinsic instincts for altruistic love. 
★★★★

Notes:
  1. Deborah Young, “The Lizard”, Variety (16 May 2004).  x 
  2. Jonathan Curiel, “FILM CLIPS / Also opening today”, SFGate, (6 August 2004).    
  3. William Brown, “There are as many paths to the time-image as there are films in the world’: Deleuze and “The Lizard”“, Chapter 5, Deleuze and Film (Deleuze Connections), (ed. by David Martin-Jones and William Brown), Edinburgh University Press, (2012), pp. 88-103.      
  4. The Film Sufi, "The Two Religions", The Film Sufi, (30 May 2015).
  5. Matthieu Ricard, Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World, Little, Brown and Company, (2013; English translation by Charlotte and Sam Gordon, 2015).

“Red Sorghum” - Zhang Yimou (1987)

Red Sorghum (Hong Gaoliang, 1987) was Zhang Yimou’s first directorial outing (he started out earlier as a cinematographer), and it was also the first modern Chinese film to be commercially released in the U. S. [1].  Although earlier films by fellow Fifth Generation Chinese filmmakers, such as Tian Zhuangzhuang and Chen Kaige, had received significant critical admiration on the Western art-house circuit, they apparently didn’t have the eye-popping blockbuster production values of Red Sorghum (such as its spectacular, brightly-hued wide-screen cinematography) to attract mainstream commercial distributors.  They also didn’t have the magnetic allure of Zhang’s dramatic star and artistic partner, Gong Li.  Anyway and for whatever reasons, Red Sorghum did go on to win the Golden Bear Award (Best Film) at the 38th Berlin International Film Festival in 1988.

Certainly Red Sorghum does have narrative and production features likely to appeal to a broad audience spectrum, but just what is its overall intended meaning has been the subject of a variety of interpretations.  The general topic could be said to be that of aspirations of heroic masculinity, but is the underlying tone worshipful, reproachful, or ironic? 

The story of the film is loosely based on 2012 Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan’s first novel Red Sorghum Clan (1986), but the film adopts its own distinctive perspective.  In the story here, we follow the changing circumstances and experiences of a young woman who inherits and operates a liquor distillery during the 1930s.  The focalization is persistently on her, but the action of the film consists of a series of events imposed on the woman arising from traditional Chinese (and Japanese) notions of masculinity. 

Because masculinity is such an important underlying theme in this film, it might first be best to mention the wider cultural lens through which masculinity is sometimes viewed in China.  This is associated with the traditional Daoist yin-yang dualism.  According to this conceptualization, the world is permeated with two complementary conceptual forces:
  • yang – associated with: light, warmth, summer, daylight, masculinity, ascent, and action
     
  • yin – associated with: darkness, coldness, winter, night, femininity, descent, and inaction
So yang can be considered to be an abstract conceptualization of masculinity, and yin is an abstract conceptualization of femininity.  According to most traditional accounts, both yang and yin are necessary and just need to be maintained in a proper balance.  However, Confucian sage Dong Zhongshu (179-104 B.C.) is said to have held that yang is essentially good and yin is detrimental, to wit [2]:
"The yang is benign while the yin is malign: the yang means birth while the yin means death.  Therefore yang is mostly present and prominent: yin is constantly absent and marginal."
In any case, one could certainly argue that Red Sorghum’s treatment of masculinity needs to be considered from the larger Daoist perspective.  Moreover, as Yeujin Wang has remarked [3]:
“One distinction that marks the contemporary Chinese New Wave cinema is its sense of cultural urgency couched in the collective consciousness, and the impossibility of there being private isolation in this critical moment of historical transformation that will eventually implicate every individual. In this context, issues of masculinity and femininity acquire more social and symbolic resonances than they may in the West.“
Apart from any specific Daoist considerations, though, there have been three main stances that critics have adopted with respect to the general depiction of masculinity in Red Sorghum:
  • Celebration of heroic masculinity
    Critic Roger Ebert, for example, saw the film as a throwback to the old Hollywood-style “shoot ‘em up” action movies, like the old Hollywood Westerns, that featured heroic good guys going up against bad guys [1].  For him, the movie was a celebration of heroic masculinity among the common people.
       
  • Condemnation of crude, narcissistic masculinity
    Others have seen the film as a portrayal of reprehensible male narcissism, with the female protagonist in the story shown being continually subjected to the ego gratification activities of males with whom she is forced to interact [4].
         
  • Masculinity seen through a feminine perspective
    But one can also see the film from the feminine perspective.  After all, the focalization of the film is entirely on the female protagonist, and she is not entirely passive.  Within the social constraints imposed on her, she expresses her own feminine assertiveness and personal responses to the masculine-dominant world surrounding her.  In fact in this regard [3]
    “Female sexuality is represented not through the frank sexual scenes which are kept off-screen, thus defying the male spectators' voyeuristic impulse, but rather by focusing on the female presence as the locus of discourse. Gong Li, who plays Jiuer, has a temperamental look of rapture and ecstasy that is always there.”
The story of Red Sorghum plays out through five sections, or “acts”; and to help trace this masculine-feminine theme that I have been discussing, I will identify moments in the narrative that show expressions of masculinity (with “(M)”) and feminine assertiveness (with “(F)”).

1.   1929 – An Arranged Marriage

The film begins with an unseen narrator saying that this tale is about his grandmother, Jiu’er (played by Gong Li).  As a very young woman, she is sent off on a marriage palanquin to the remote home/business of her new bridegroom, Li Datou, who, we are told (he is never seen in the film), is a 50-year-old man who owns a liquor distillery and suffers from leprosy.

The palanquin carriers are workers from the groom’s distillery, except for the leader, Yu (Jiang Wen), who is a professional sedan carrier.  Yu is a brawny, super-confidant fellow who leads the other carriers in singing ribald songs to taunt and embarrass the unhappy bride inside the closed palanquin (M).  Jiu’er is anguished by these antics, but we see that she is secretly carrying a pair of scissors with her, which she apparently intends to use in case things get out of hand (F).

Along the way, the palanquin is carried through a wild sorghum field (the sorghum plants have tall stalks and thereby provide concealment for anyone who wants to hide among them), and they are ambushed by a masked bandit, who wants all their money and to carry off Jiu’er into the sorghum field (M).  However, Yu manages to fight off the bandit and kill him (M).  Finally Jiu’er is delivered to Li Datou’s remote home.

2.  Jiu’er Visits Her Parental Home
Following custom, Jiu’er must visit her own parents three days after her wedding, so her father comes to fetch her and escort her back to her parents’ home on the back of a donkey.  With her father trying to walk beside her on foot, Jiu’er rushes ahead on the donkey and out of her father’s sight (F).  When she gets to the sorghum fields, she is again attacked by a masked bandit.  But this one turns out to be Yu, a person Jiu’er had earlier been eyeing.  When Jiu’er sees who her attacker is, she willingly succumbs to his  demands for sexual intercourse in the sorghum field (M), (F).

Later Jiu’er makes it to her parents’ home, but there she renounces her father for having arranged her unwanted marriage to a leper just so he could secure a valued dowry (F).  She tells him that she never wants to see him again.

3.  Jiu’er Returns to the Distillery

When Jiu’er returns to the distillery, she learns that Li Datou has been murdered.  The voiceover narrator says he presumes that the murderer was Yu, whom he refers to as his grandpa (M). 

Since Li Datou had no heirs, Jiu’er inherits the distillery.  Although she has no experience running a distillery, she convinces all the workers, who have been packing their bags preparing to leave, to stay and help run the distillery in communal fashion (F).

Then an inebriated Yu comes to the distillery and drunkenly boasts to everyone that he had had sex with Jiu’er (M).  He tries to barge into Jiu’er’s quarters, but she has him thrown out (F).  Then the workers dump the passed-out Yu into a large empty clay jug.

4.  Sanpao, the Bandit
Suddenly the notorious gun-wielding bandit Sanpao (Ji Chunhua) and his gang now attack the distillery.  Sanpao abducts Jiu’er and holds her for ransom (M).  Yu, now sober, can only cower in helplessness.  Later, though, after the ransom is paid Yu daringly tracks down Sanpao and after a scuffle, gets the bandit to confirm that he did not have sex with Jiu’er (M).

Now feeling more macho than ever, Yu comes to the distillery during a new-liquor ceremony and contemptuously urinates into all the new-liquor vats (M).  Then after wrecking some distillery equipment, he proudly carries Jiu’er off into her bedroom to have sex with her (M).  The workers only watch helplessly.

Later, however, the distillery foreman happens to taste the pissed-in liquor and discovers that it has an exquisite taste.  He reports this news to Jiu’er, and they start producing liquor according to this new formula.

5.  1938
The scene shifts forward nine years, and the distillery is shown to be booming, thanks to its secret formula.  Jiu’er is the happy mother of a nine-year-old son, Dou-Guan, the narrator’s father. 

However, the Second Sino-Japanese War has begun, and invading Japanese troops come to the distillery locale and force all the villagers in the area to trample the sorghum fields so they can build a road there (M).  The Japanese soldiers are shown here to be cruel and inhuman, and revelling in torture, which reflects general Chinese feelings concerning the holocaust that the Japanese inflicted on them at this time [5].

The Japanese then order a local butcher to skin alive the captured bandit Sanpao.  When he resists them by killing Sanpao quickly, the soldiers shoot the butcher.  Then they order the butcher’s assistant to skin alive the captured former distillery foreman, who had left earlier and apparently joined the Communist forces (M).  All the locals, including Jiu’er and Yu, are forced to watch this horror in silence.

That evening, Jiu’er gets Yu and the distillery workers to swear to avenge this cruel murder (F).  They go out at night to set up an alcohol-based bombing ambush on the Japanese truck for the next morning.  However, in the morning the Japanese truck still hasn’t come, and Dou-Guan reports back to his mother at the distillery that the ambushers are getting hungry.  So Jiu’er prepares some food for her team and brings it out to them (F). 

Just when she arrives, though, the Japanese truck shows up, and she is machine-gunned.  The attack is triggered too early and botched, and in the ensuing mayhem almost everyone is killed.  The only ones to survive are Yu and Dou-Guan, who are shown at the end staring forlornly at the devastation.


The film ends in despair, with Jiu’er finally succumbing to one of the many acts of masculinity-fed brutalization that had plagued her throughout her life.  But there are images and sequences that resonate in the mind long afterwards.  So before returning to the key issue of Red Sorghum’s portrayal of masculinity, we might comment on the excellent wide-screen cinematography of photographer Changwei Gu (Farewell My Concubine (1993) and Ju Dou (1990)) and director Zhang Yimou, himself a former cinematographer.  The color red is a symbolic image in the film and is featured in various places.  At one point, after Yu has had sex with Jiu’er in the sorghum field, he sneaks along, hidden in the sorghum stalks, and sings to her a ribald song extolling the virtues  of red.  In it he says that red is the color for (a) the blaze of love, (b) the bride’s chamber, (c) a virgin’s blood, and (d) red sorghum liquor.  More generally, Yeujin Wang comments [3]:
“Redness bespeaks desire, passion, blood (itself signifying birth and death), beauty and cruelty, destruction and construction (in that the homogeneous color scheme destroys the previous world of color and re-orders a new world).”
Thus red might be considered to be representative of the Daoist notion of the yang force, but at the same time it is associated with images of femininity that invite lustful masculine thoughts.  This powerful but ambivalent nature of red with respect to the masculine-feminine dualism is what seems to lie at the heart of Red Sorghum.

So returning to the three main critical stances in connection with the film, I would reject the “celebration of heroic masculinity” line adopted by some critics like Roger Ebert.  Yu shows some bravery in this story, but he is also crude, boorish, and narcissistic towards women.  He sees femininity as just there to be exploited for his pleasures.  The other manifestations of masculinity – the leprous Li Datou, the bandits, and the Japanese soldiers – are even worse.  As Yeujin Wang remarks, Jiu’er is seen as an object [3]:
“Jiuer is carried off by men four times in the film: first as an unwilling bride carried by a group of lusty chair-bearers to the leprous bridegroom; a second time as a potential rape victim in the sorghum field; a third time as a willing mate on her second trip through the sorghum field; and finally in her kidnapping by the local bandit for ransom.“
At the same time, I don’t see the film as a “condemnation of crude, narcissistic masculinity”, either.  Jiu’er is shown to have an affinity for men who can be cooperative and work with her.  And we do see occasions of positive masculine responses to her team-spirit approach.  Consequently I would go along with the stance of seeing the film as “masculinity seen through a feminine perspective”.  Again, Yeujin Wang has some appropriate comments in this regard [3]:
“The film Red Sorghum - ostensibly about the uninhibited manners of masculinity - is ironically and structurally contained in a discourse about the maternal which is narrated by a first-person voice-over.
    . . .
In other words, it is through a feminine vision of totality that the masculine past is re-constructed and obtains coherence and meaning.“
Nevertheless and despite Gong Li’s magnetic performance, this feminine vision doesn’t truly come together in the film.  Over the course of the story, Jiu’er is subjected to a sequence of masculinity-fuelled actions of oppression, but is there any sense of narrative progression here?  She has her own feminine assertiveness, but in the end she simply falls prey to urges for revenge, the same kind of crude impulse characteristic of her male antagonists.  She just used her male coworkers as instruments for her revenge.

But the real problem with Red Sorghum’s storytelling is with its characterization of Yu.  He is the major figure of Jiu’er’s attention, but I am unable to empathize with his point of view or otherwise “get inside” him.  And why she is attracted to him is a mystery to me.  Moreover, he doesn’t strike me as a figure worthy of being a representative of the Communist common man.  So although the film has its fascinating attractions, it doesn’t quite add up.  Zhang Yimou, however, would soon go on to make some truly outstanding works of a universal nature.


Notes:
  1. Roger Ebert, “Red Sorghum”, Roger Ebert.com, (28 February 1989).
  2. Dong Zhongshu, “The Noble Yang and the Base Yin”, Chunqiu Fanlu Yuyin, quoted in
    • Zhang Dainian, “Zhongguo Zexue Dagang (An Outline of Chinese Philosophy)”, (Beijing: China Social Sciences and Humanities Press), quoted in
      • Yeujin Wang, “Mixing Memory and Desire: “Red Sorghum” A Chinese Version of Masculinity and Femininity”, Public Culture, Vol. 2, No. 1: Fall 1989, Duke University Press, pp. 31-53.
  3. Yeujin Wang, “Mixing Memory and Desire: Red Sorghum A Chinese Version of Masculinity and Femininity”, Public Culture, Vol. 2, No. 1: Fall 1989, Duke University Press, pp. 31-53. 
  4. Chris Berry, “Neither One Thing nor Another: Toward a Study of the Viewing Subject and Chinese Cinema in the 1980s”, New Chinese Cinemas, (ed. by Nick Browne, Paul G. Pickowicz, Vivian Sobchack, Esther Yau), Cambridge University Press, (1994), pp. 88-113.
  5. Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking, Basic Books, (1997).

“Yellow Earth” - Chen Kaige (1984)

The Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakimg was made possible by the ending of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and the subsequent reopening of the Beijing Film Institute for study in 1978.  Among that first group of students graduating in 1982 were future leaders of the Fifth Generation movement: Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou, and Tian Zhuangzhuang. These young cineastes had ambitions to pursue new forms of cinematic expression in a Chinese context, and the first major film to emerge from this group was Yellow Earth (Huang tu di, 1984), which was directed by Chen Kaige and photographed by Zhang Yimou.

Upon its release, Yellow Earth was not a major hit in China, but it quickly attracted attention outside China [1].  Indeed, because the film abandoned the prevailing government censorial preference for socialist realism, it was probably fortunate that the film was even approved for release in China at all.  Nevertheless, the film did have an immediate impact on the filmmaking community in China.  In this connection, Tian Zhuangzhuang remarked in 1986 that [2]
“If it wasn’t for Yellow Earth, then there wouldn’t have been the whole debate about film aesthetics . . . [the film] represents the future of Chinese cinema now.”                     
And ever since then Yellow Earth has been, over the years, the subject of scrutiny concerning various aspects of its presentation and of multiple interpretations concerning its underlying meanings [3,4].  I will get to some of those interpretations later, but first I will give a basic picture of the film’s narrative, which can be considered to play out through five segments.

1.  Early Spring, 1939
In 1937 the opposing Kuomintang Nationalist Party (KMT) forces and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) forces realized that they would have to cooperate in order to fight against the invading Japanese in the Second Sino-Japanese War.  By 1939 the KMT had recognized the autonomy of the CCP soldier to cross over the Shaanxi-Gansun-Ningxia border region.  In the early spring of that year, a soldier from the CCP’s Eighth Route Army, Gu Qing (played by Xue Bai), is shown to have travelled 200 miles from CCP-controlled Yan’an to the northern KMT-controlled area of Shaanxi, Shanbei.  His mission is to collect local peasants’ folk songs that the CCP soldiers can then sing and affirm their commonality with the local people.

In the opening shots, Gu is seen walking over the barren Loess Plateau of that region.  When he happens upon a peasant wedding procession, he takes out his notebook and prepares to record the festivities.  The people involved in the procession appear to be enjoying the party, but the red-hooded 13-year-old bride looks glum when briefly seen and clearly represents just an artefact, not a person, in this social setting.  Gu is invited to the wedding banquet, where the guests are served plates of wooden fish, because real fish are not available to these people. During the feast Gu jots down a wedding song he hears sung by a village crooner.
 
We next see another 13-year-old girl from the same village, Cuiqiao (Wang Xueqi), carrying out her routine task of walking three miles with buckets to the Yellow River in order to fetch water for her poor family.  Along the way, she sings a plaintive song:
“Among human beings, a girl’s life is the most pitiable. 
  Pity the poor girls, the poor girls.”   
2.  With Cuiqiao’s Family
Gu Qing decides to remain in that village to collect songs, and he winds up staying with Cuiqiao’s small family, which includes her widowed father (played by Tan Tuo) and her shy, almost mute, younger brother, Hanhan (Liu Quiang).  Gu starts out helping the family members with their plowing and chores, and he gradually gets to know them better.  Their conversations exhibit the contrasts between the modernist Communist and traditional peasant ways.  On one occasion Gu tells the father that in the Communist south, girls are liberated and free to choose their marriage partners.  In the south, Gu tells him, girls are not for sale.  Then they have the following exchange that tellingly reflects their contrasting perspectives:
Gu Qing:     “The world must change.  The south has changed. 
                      North China must change, too.”

The Father:  “We fathers have our own rules”
On another occasion when Cuiqiao mentions to Gu that noone in their village is literate, he  tells her that in the Communist-held south, all boys and girls are being taught how to read and write.  These positive comments, along with Gu’s general upbeat demeanor, seem to inspire both Cuiqiao and Hanhan and make them more cheerful.  Gu even gets Hanhan to talk and sing, which leads to the boy singing a bizarre bed-wetting song.  Gu responds to this by teaching the boy to sing an optimistic Communist song.

3.  Upcoming Events
However, Cuiqiao, who was betrothed to an older man as a small child, learns that her future in-laws want the arranged marriage to take place soon, in April.  This is evidently alarming to her, and when she has a chance to speak with Gu alone, she asks him if his army needs any women who can sing.  (Gu answers in the affirmative.)  In fact all along, Cuiqiao has been shown singing beautiful songs when she is alone, often with lyrics that she has composed herself, and we know  that she is a good singer.  But the songs of these people tend to be sad songs, reflecting their generally fatalistic perspectives on life. 

Then Gu announces that it is time for him to leave the village and return to his army in the south.  When he departs, both Hanhan and Cuigiao separately sneak out to join him on the road and go with him.  Gu sends Hanhan back home, but when he meets Cuiqiao further on down the road, she tells him she wants to join his army (and thereby flee the grim servitude of a loveless marriage). Gu tells he is not allowed by his superiors to take her with him, but he will seek official permission from his unit and return for her later.  Cuiqiao asks him to promise to return by April, and then as he walks away, she sings an optimistic song for him.

4.  Departure
In April, Gu hasn’t arrived yet, and Cuiqiao is briefly shown being subjected to the traditional bride-demeaning wedding ceremony like that which we had seen at the beginning of the film.  Cuiqiao’s glum circumstances are contrasted with parallel scenes showing Gu back in Yan’an watching soldiers from the Eighth Route Army performing a vigorous coordinated dance celebrating their ferocity.  In the north it is all passivity, while in the south it is potency.
  
Shortly thereafter, Hanhan is seen carrying out the chore that used to be done by Cuiqiao, going to the Yellow River to fetch water.  At the river bank he sees Cuiqiao, who has sneaked over there with the intention of escaping by crossing the big river in a small boat and going to join the Eighth Route Army on her own.  Hanhan warns her that it is too dangerous to cross the big river on her own, but Cuiqiao can’t be deterred.  She gets into the boat and rows off into the river waters, singing an optimistic Communist song as she goes.  As she disappears into the evening dusk, Hanhan on the shore can still hear her singing, but her voice suddenly ceases in mid verse.  Hanhan calls out with alarm into the darkness

5.   Gu Qing Returns
In something of a coda to the film, Gu Qing is shown returning to the village and finding Cuiqiao’s home empty.  All the male peasants have gone out onto the loess hills to pray fervently to the Dragon Lord in the sky for rain.  The fanatical supplicants are all bare-chested and wearing ceremonial head wreaths of leaves.  Among the crowd is Hanhan, who turns his head and sees Gu Qing on a hill way in the back.  He tries to go back towards Gu, but he is unable to work his way through the swarming crowd that is sweeping everyone forward towards some unseen destination dictated by their superstitious ritual.  The final shot of the film shows the empty loess hills and Cuiqiao’s wistful voice in the background singing a verse of hope for a Communist future.


Thus the ending of Yellow Earth yields a somewhat problematic verdict concerning the efficacy of the Communist message on the stubborn peasants’ way of life.  Cuiqiao appears to have died trying to escape her confining circumstance and find imagined liberation with the Eighth Route Army.  And Hanhan seems unable to reunite with Gu at the end.  In fact the way those final shots are composed suggests that the image of Gu at the end may be only a mirage.  So the path to salvation is elusive here. 

Even Chen Kaige, himself, seems to have been, in retrospect, of two minds about the film’s message [5].  He had started with Ke Lan’s uncomplicated novel Echo in the Deep Valley, but after spending a month in northern Shaanxi in early 1984 researching the local way of life there, he made considerable adaptations to Ke Lan’s story [4].  And he added to the story a moody tone, which is reflected in the film’s evocative folk-song motif, the atmospheric soundtrack music by Jiping Zhao, and Zhang Yimou’s context-grounded cinematography.  In particular, Zhang Yimou’s many long shots giving considerable screen space in the foreground to the hilly and dusty loess terrain maintain a context and feeling of desolation throughout the film.

So although a straightforward interpretation of Yellow Earth might see the film as just a stark confrontation between modern thinking and backwardness, when we watch the film we can see that it is not quite that simple.  In fact we might say that there are two main perspectives that are present in the film [4]:
  • Sympathy for the authentic integrity of the native people and their connection to the Chinese essence.
     
  • Categorical, reductionist judgement of the native peasants’ backwardness and need of reform.
And critics suggest that both perspectives are present here at the same time.  Commenting in this regard, W. K. Cheng has said [4]:
“‘Yellow Earth’, therefore, is courageous, not just in the sense that it shuns the comfort of certainty by shirking the socialist formula, but also because in doing so, it exposes itself to the nether world of ambiguities, incongruities, uncertainties and anguish that has accompanied the Chinese quest for modern nationhood in resalable memory.  What makes ‘Yellow Earth’ so intriguing and, for many, emotionally arresting is not that it restores certainty to the Chinese collective identity, quite the contrary to Chen Kaige’s apparent intent, but rather that the film’s symbolic intensity reenacts the internal tensions in the modern predicament of national reconstruction.”
Other critics have looked at the film, from a postmodernist perspective, as a piece of abstract text to be analysed [6,7].  In this connection Esther Yau has mulled over the curious fact that two of the most dramatic elements in the narrative – Cuiqiao’s grim marriage ceremony and Cuiqiao’s ultimate disappearance in the water – are glossed over and barely covered in the cinematic presentation [7].  Hence apparently to her, the hidden meaning of the film must be found elsewhere.

But I think perhaps the most fruitful critical path to follow lies in the Daoist direction.  Along this line of thinking, the modernist Communist and traditionalist peasant perspectives can be considered to be embodiments of the Daoist yin-yang polarity [8,9].  According to this formulation,
  • yin symbolically suggests the notions of femininity, dark, wetness, cold, passivity, disintegration, etc.
     
  • yang symbolically suggests the notions of masculinity, light, warmth, dryness, activity, etc.
According to this way of seeing things, the peasant, traditionalist perspective embodies the yin principle, and the Communist, modernist perspective embodies the yang principle.  But it is not as though one should choose one of these to the exclusion of the other.  Both yin and yang are needed and must be maintained in the proper balance.  In this connection Mary Ann Farquhar has remarked [9]:
“A Daoist reading of Yellow Earth gives a meaning that is seen and felt directly, a meaning beyond the images and words. The complexity and depth of the human lives are rendered in stark images against the vast backdrop of the natural world. Minimalized tone, colour and composition are reminiscent of the restraint of classical Chinese painting. Songs and silence overlay the imagery and evoke the lyricism and elusiveness of traditional Chinese poetry.“
Anyway, whatever take you want to adopt, Yellow Earth offers a fascinating view of the complex Chinese society undergoing dramatic change.
½

Notes:
  1. Walter Goodman, “China’s ‘Yellow Earth’", The New York Times,  (11 April 1986).   
  2. Yang Ping, “A Director Who is Trying to Change the Audience; A Chat with Young Director, Tian Zhuangzhuang”, in Perspectives on Chinese Cinema, (ed. and trans. by Chris Berry), British Film Institute”, (1991), p. 127.
  3. Dan Edwards, “Framing the Heavy Weight of History: Yellow Earth”, Senses of Cinema, (May 2015).       
  4. W. K. Cheng, “Imagining the People: ‘Yellow Earth’ and the Enigma of Nationalist Consciousness”, The China Review, vol. 2, no. 2, (Fall 2002), pp. 37-63.  
  5. Chen Kaige, “Quanli zou Shaanbei” (“Trekking Northern Shaanxi for a Thousand li”), Dianying Yishu, no. 4, (1985).
  6. Chris Berry, “Neither One Thing nor Another: Toward a Study of the Viewing Subject and Chinese Cinema in the 1980s”, New Chinese Cinemas, (ed. by Nick Browne, Paul G. Pickowicz, Vivian Sobchack, Esther Yau), Cambridge University Press, (1994), pp. 88-113.
  7. Esther C. M. Yau, “‘Yellow Earth’: Western Analysis and a Non-western Text”, in Perspectives on Chinese Cinema, (ed. by C. Berry), British Film Institute, (1991), pp. 22-33.
  8. Roy Stafford, “Yellow Earth (China 1984)”, The Case for Global Film, (3 May 2007).    
  9. Mary Ann Farquhar, “The ‘hidden’ gender in ‘Yellow Earth’”, Screen, volume 33, issue 2, (1 July 1992).

Chen Kaige

Films of Chen Kaige: