Screened as part of NZIFF 2003

Springtime in a Small Town 2001

Xiao Cheng Zhi Chun

Directed by Tian Zhuangzhuang

China / France / Hong Kong In Mandarin with English subtitles
116 minutes 35mm


Ah Cheng Based on the story by Li Tianji and the screenplay by Fei Mu


Mark Lee Ping-bing


Xu Jiangping


Zhao Li
Liao Jiawei


Hu Jingfan
Wu Jun
Xin Baiqing


Venice, Toronto, New York, Vancouver 2002; Rotterdam 2003


Best Film Countercurrent Competition, Venice 2002


Leading Chinese director Tian Zhuangzhuang is best known for his epic portrayal of life under Mao, Blue Kite (1993), which got him banned from filmmaking for three years. His long anticipated return is a remake of a Chinese classic, Fei Mu’s 1948 Spring in a Small Town. Just after World War II, Liyan, a wealthy 30-year-old invalid living in dilapidated splendour with his beautiful, attentive wife, Yuwen, welcomes an unexpected visit from an old university friend, Zhiwen. The cheerful, citified Zhiwen livens up the sleepy household, and rouses memories of a more exciting life in Yuwen who becomes less and less inclined to disguise her interest. The film’s tour de force is a night of drunken indiscretion which is one of the year’s most masterfully directed sequences.

An exquisite portrayal of emotional restraint and intellectual diffidence, Springtime in a Small Town maps romantic trepidation in subtle moves – through gesture, glances, double entendre and visual allusions. The sombre beauty of the cinematography is another gorgeous feather in the cap of Mark Lee who shot In the Mood for Love and Flowers of Shanghai.

“A movie of indefinable moods and subtle emotional coloration, Springtime skews the Chekhovian triangle that develops between a sickly young landowner, his demurely provocative wife, and their childhood friend… The unfulfilled longings evoke a double nostalgia. It’s a must-see…” —
J. Hoberman, Village Voice