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Balzac & The Little Chinese Seamstress [DVD] [2003]


Price: £9.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £20. Details
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Balzac & The Little Chinese Seamstress [DVD] [2003] + Red Sorghum [1987] [DVD]
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Product details

  • Actors: Xun Zhou, Kun Chen, Ye Liu, Shuangbao Wang, Zhijun Cong
  • Directors: Sijie Dai
  • Writers: Sijie Dai, Nadine Perront
  • Producers: Bernard Lorain, Lise Fayolle, Pujian Wang, Wang Zhebin
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 12
  • Studio: Studiocanal
  • DVD Release Date: 26 April 2004
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000D9Y4Y
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,640 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Luo (Chen Kun) and Ma (Liu Ye), two urban, middle-class, young men are sent to a remote (and seemingly culturally barren) mountain village for re-education in Maoist principles. However, they discover a hidden stash of books by writers such as Flaubert, Dumas and Balzac, and the young men begin to pass on their love of art and literature to the local seamstress (Xun Zhou), who is hungry for knowledge and with whom they both fall in love.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Feb. 2006
Format: DVD
Set against the startling backdrop of China's mountainous regions, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress takes place during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, where the government was intent on reeducating those intellectuals, artists and political dissenters.Filmmaker Dai Sijie has created a dreamy memory of hardship and adversity - part familiar Chinese parable, part familiar French romance - in which love of the radiantly beautiful, remote Chinese landscape outlasts bitterness at the Mao era's blinkered commitment to intellectual ignorance.
Two teenage friends, Ma and Luo (the attractive Ye Liu and Kun Chen), toil away in a mountain village, children of disgraced intellectuals. As part of their reeducation, they lug human waste up a mountaintop, push rocks in a mine, and occasionally visit a nearby town to watch North Korean films, which they then act out for their less mobile comrades.
Life for them is pretty boring, and they soon tire of the work, but they're smart enough to know that the whole thing is somewhat farcical, but also smart enough to go along with the program. A new world opens up for them when they discover that another young man sent for re-education has a stash of forbidden books – mostly 19th-century European and Russian novels – hidden in his hut.
They also two fall in love with a young girl (Xun Zhou) from a neighboring village and woo her by reading to her from the forbidden books. The young seamstress shows an instant affinity to Balzac in particular, and as Ma reads her the stories from the 19th century, the girl. the most appealing aspect of the movie is the romantic notion that books can change lives.
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73 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Robert Harkins on 5 Dec. 2003
Format: DVD
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Starring: Liu Ye, Chen Kun and Zhou Xhun
1971 and the Cultural Revolution is raging in China. Two sons of enemies of the people Ma (Ye) and Luo (Kun) are sent off to the countryside for re-education. Ma's father, a dentist, gave that reactionary running dog Chaing Kai Shek a filling in 1947. The boys are sent to the heart of Northern China's Phoenix Mountains to live and work. Scenery. The opening shot when they are trudging up the mountainside is spectacular.
The boys meet the Chief and the whole village crowds round? Not much entertainment in the mountains. The Chief rummages through their luggage and finds a violin. He is about to throw it on the fire as a bourgeois toy when Ma explains that it's a musical instrument. The Chief asks for music. Luo gives him a Mozart sonata. The Chief is underwhelmed. It's Mozart thinking about Chairman Mao the bold Ma says. Smiles. Happiness. Congratulations. No burnt violin.
So they settle into a life of drudgery. Lugging barrels of manure up the mountains. Digging for copper in a primitive mine. Boredom. Misery. Hard work. Then one day the Tailor breezes into town. A venerable old gentleman with a sewing machine. He brings his grand-daughter the Little Seamstress in person. Beautiful. Lively. Funny. Can't read.
The boys take it upon themselves to teach her to read and write. In doing so of course they'll get to know her better, or even better, intimately. The Seamstress tells them of a youth in the next village, the finely named Four-Eyes, who has a suitcase of forbidden foreign books. These turn out to be 19th century French classics by Balzac, Dumas, Stendhal.
So they start reading the books to the Seamstress. The Tailor is no mug though and suspects the boys are up to no good.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 23 Jan. 2006
Format: DVD
This fascinating film is based on the book written by the director Sijie Dai about his personal experiences when re-educated in Chairman Mao’s China in the 1970s.
It is shot in the beautiful Phoenix Mountains in Northern China and relates the experiences of two educated eighteen year olds Luo (Kun Chen) and Ma (Ye Liu) thrust into an isolated illiterate peasant community and both falling in love with the tailors daughter “Little Chinese Seamstress” sensitively acted by Xun Zhou.
This political re-education does not entail incarceration so the boys are free to move around, and this enables an exploration of how reading and education and the ideas learned from books improve the human condition.
The boys steal a suitcase of books (according to the Director in the interview nearly everyone in Chine at the time (including himself) stole forbidden books. Balzac is important to the Little Seamstress as she learns the role of women in western society, and the power beauty can give them. The chemistry between the two educated boys and the illiterate girl they educate is superbly enacted.
The drama unfolds at exactly the right pace shot in fine photography amidst glorious natural beauty. A great Chinese movie.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Andres C. Salama on 10 Aug. 2008
Format: DVD
This Chinese movie, set in 1971, is about two university students that in the middle of the Cultural revolution, are sent to a mountain village for reeducation, in order to "learn from the peasants". Amid the menial work they are forced to do and the stifling stupidity of the villagers, the pair manages some solace by seducing the young seamstress granddaughter of a local tailor, when they introduce her to a secret cache of forbidden books (including a tome by Honore de Balzac referred in the movie's title). The movie is interesting to watch, yet a bit ugly in its contempt for peasants, who are seen as ugly brutes, basically. This sort of ugly snobbery makes one almost think that maybe Mao had a few points in sending the haughty intellectuals to the countryside for reeducation (of course, in real life, reeducation during the cultural revolution was a much more brutal affair than it is shown here).
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