[Blueboard] Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Chinese Studies Program
chinese at admu.edu.ph
Tue Jan 20 08:44:57 PHT 2004
The Chinese Studies Program
invites you to a special screening of
BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS
Starring Xun Zhou, Kun Chen and Ye Liu.
Directed by Dai Sijie. Written by Dai Sijie and Nadine Perront.
Nominated for the 2002 Best Foreign Film, Golden Globe Awards
Official Selection at Cannes, Edinburgh, and Palm Springs Film Festivals
Friday, 23 January 2004
Out of the joyless era of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Dai Sijie has
fashioned a story of adolescent love, the irrepressible power of the
imagination and the pure joy of reading, and told it with affection and
Based on his novel of the same name, an international bestseller published
in 25 languages, Balzac And The Little Chinese Seamstress draws on Dai's
experiences as the 17-year-old son of two doctors who was sent away to be
"re-educated." Far from his home in Fujian province, Dai lived among
mostly illiterate peasants in a mountain village in Sichuan from 1971 to
1974. Like the two boys in his story, Ma and Luo, he worked in the fields
and in a copper mine. When his indoctrination was deemed complete, Dai
returned home to complete his high school education. In 1984 he went to
France on a university scholarship and has resided there ever since.
A graduate of French film school, Dai makes films with a Western
sensibility. (His previous features include China, My Sorrow, The Eleventh
Child and Le mangeur de lune.) This one contains a nod to Francois
Truffault's Jules et Jim, in the love that grows between the two bourgeois
boys and the granddaughter of the local tailor who calls herself The
With unlikely ease, the boys adjust to a life of hauling sewage used as
fertilizer, crawling underground in the mine and exposure to malaria.
Stripped of their bourgeois belongings, they cannot be robbed of their
education and cultural sophistication. Quick thinking saves Ma's violin
from destruction. When he plays it, Luo explains to the peasant
revolutionaries that the music is "Mozart thinking of Chairman Mao."
Learning that Four Eyes, a bespectacled young man whose conversion is
complete, has a secret cache of forbidden books, Luo and Ma scheme to
steal them. Their treasure includes works by Flaubert, Hugo, Tolstoy,
Dickens, Dumas, Rousseau and, best of all, Balzac. Luo conceives a
re-education plan of his own. "I swear I'll transform The Little
Seamstress. I'll cure her of her ignorance." He reads to her nightly and
they become lovers.
On the pretext that they're recreating an Albanian film they've been sent
to see, the boys stage nightly storytelling sessions for the whole
village, feeding them The Count Of Monte Cristo story.
The Little Seamstress loses her innocence as well as her ignorance. After
she becomes pregnant, Ma takes her to a hospital for an abortion. The
Little Seamstress then departs the village, leaving both boys
heart-broken. Twenty years later, Ma is a musician in Paris when he learns
that the village is to be flooded in a hydro-electric project. He goes
back in search of the Little Seamstress but fails to find her. As the
floodwaters submerge the village, all that Luo and Ma have experienced is
preserved only in memory, a story to be told like the fiction they so
Shot in the mountains of Sichuan, not far from the inaccessible village
where Dai was re-located, Balzac And The Little Chinese Seamstress gains a
lot of its seductive quality from the exquisite mountain landscape and the
beauty of young actors Xun Zhou as The Little Chinese Seamstress, Kun Chen
as Luo and Ye Liu as Ma. Rather than a depiction of the trials imposed on
China's citizens during the Cultural Revolution, Dai's film is a
delightful fable about the enduring value of literature.
-Susan Walker, Toronto Star
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