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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress,
This review is from: Balzac & The Little Chinese Seamstress [DVD]  (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. He moves into their hut and becomes beguiled by the Count of Monte Christo. The Chief finds out. The Chief threatens to turn them in. The Chief has toothache. Oh Dear. Learn how to make your own sewing machine powered dentist's drill!
Verdict: Wonderful. The story is based on the experiences of Dai Sijiie who was re-educated himself in the seventies. If you can't see the DVD buy the book. Now available at all good bookshops!