Although Dai is a Chinese national, he wrote the novel in French, his second language. The story follows two 'city youths' who are sent to a mountain village to be 're-educated' during China's Cultural Revolution. Although the plot of the novel is fictional, its setting and its details are based on Dai's own life. Like the boys from the novel, Dai was born in Chengdu and was sent to a mountain village to be re-educated at 17, despite his fairly modest origins as a tailor's son. There, he acquired a stolen suitcase full of Chinese translations of Sigmund Freud's work.
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It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 16 May. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same title by Dai, the film revolves around two young Chinese boys of bourgeois background who were sent to a remote village in Sichuan province for three years of re-education during the Cultural Revolution.
They both fell in love with a beautiful local girl, granddaughter of an old tailor and known to everyone as the Little Seamstress. During those years of intellectual oppression, the three found solace and liberation in a collection of banned translated novels by Western authors, among whom their favourite was Balzac.
The film explores the themes of youth, love, and freedom in those dark times in China. The film is set in a period between and , during the later stage of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Two city boys in their late teenage years, Luo Min played by Chen Kun and Ma Jianling Liu Ye , are on their way to a remote village in the mountainous Sichuan province for re-education.
Upon arrival, the boys are questioned on their "reactionary backgrounds" by the Chief Chen Tianlu , the village leader, in the presence of the other villagers. Luo's father turns out to be a dentist who had once fitted a false tooth for Chiang Kai-shek , while Ma's father is a doctor. The Chief also examines the boys' luggage and burns a cookbook, which he claims to be bourgeois. He is about to throw Ma's violin into the fire as well before he is stopped by Luo, who lies that the Mozart 's Divertimento KV Ma plays is a "mountain song" titled Mozart is Thinking of Chairman Mao.
The two boys are allocated a house and immediately join in the labours of the locals, which include transporting buckets of human waste used for fertilizer as well as working in the coal mine. One day, a young girl, granddaughter of a tailor from the neighbouring village and known to everyone as the Little Seamstress Zhou Xun , comes by with her grandfather to listen to Ma play violin.
Luo and Ma befriend the Little Seamstress and soon both fall in love with her. The girl, illiterate but hungry for knowledge, and the boys, vowing to transform her, devise a plan to steal a suitcase filled with banned translated Western novels from Four-Eyes Wang Hongwei , another boy undergoing re-education in the village but bound to return to the city. Luo begins to read to the Little Seamstress every day, books including those by Stendhal , Kipling and Dostoevsky.
But her favourite turns out to be Balzac. The Little Seamstress soon falls in love with Luo. One day, as Luo is departing for the city on a two-month leave to visit his sick father, she tells him that she has a problem but does not elaborate. She later confides to Ma that she is pregnant, but population-curbing laws forbid marriage before 25 and abortion is illegal without a marriage certificate.
Ma travels to the city to find a gynecologist who knows his father and begs the latter for help. The gynecologist is moved and agrees to travel to the village to perform a secret abortion.
Upon Luo's return, life resumes as before. One day, however, the Little Seamstress, now completely changed by the new ideas Luo and Ma have introduced her to, abruptly decides to leave the village to seek out "a new life," despite pleas from her grandfather and Luo. Later, in , Luo and Ma both return to the city as well. Luo later becomes a professor in a dental institute in Shanghai , while Ma moves to France and becomes a professional violinist. In the late s, when he sees on the news that the construction of the Three Gorges Dam will soon flood the village he spent three years in, Ma travels back in the hope of finding the Little Seamstress again.
However, his efforts are futile and he brings back only a video recording of the village and the people, including the now aged Chief.
As Ma meets up with his old friend Luo in Shanghai, the latter confesses an earlier failed attempt to search for the Little Seamstress in Shenzhen and Hong Kong. The film ends with a news clip of the flooded towns and villages and a scene of the three, back to their youth years, also submerged in water. Bloom, Michelle E. Chevaillier, Flore. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Theatrical release poster.
China portal France portal Film portal. Retrieved 25 October Categories : films Mandarin-language films s romantic drama films Chinese films Chinese romantic drama films French films French romance films Films based on Chinese novels Films set in Sichuan Films set in the s Films about the Cultural Revolution Films directed by Dai Sijie.
Hidden categories: Use dmy dates from July Template film date with 1 release date Articles containing simplified Chinese-language text Articles containing traditional Chinese-language text Articles containing French-language text.
Theatrical release poster. Wang Pujian. Jean-Marie Dreujou. Empire Pictures United States.
A Suitcase Education
The Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao Zedong altered Chinese history in the s and '70s, forcibly sending hundreds of thousands of Chinese intellectuals to peasant villages for "re-education. Sijie's unnamed year-old protagonist and his best friend, Luo, are bourgeois doctors' sons, and so condemned to serve four years in a remote mountain village, carrying pails of excrement daily up a hill. Only their ingenuity helps them to survive. The two friends are good at storytelling, and the village headman commands them to put on "oral cinema shows" for the villagers, reciting the plots and dialogue of movies. When another city boy leaves the mountains, the friends steal a suitcase full of forbidden books he has been hiding, knowing he will be afraid to call the authorities. Enchanted by the prose of a host of European writers, they dare to tell the story of The Count of Monte Cristo to the village tailor and to read Balzac to his shy and beautiful young daughter. Luo, who adores the Little Seamstress, dreams of transforming her from a simple country girl into a sophisticated lover with his foreign tales.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Reader’s Guide
The last 60 or 70 years, when the timeless traditions of brute force and realpolitik have gone into hiding behind a series of outlandish ideologies, have probably been the most bizarre in all human history. The new-style Orwellian ideologues -- Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and others -- have proved more bloody and ruthless than the worst of the Old World's tyrants, mere megalomaniacs like Caligula and Napoleon. Perhaps the most Orwellian system of all -- more Orwellian than anything even Orwell could have imagined -- was Mao's Cultural Revolution, which began in and continued until the dictator's death a decade later. It was intended to stamp out the educated class and directed specifically against the ''Four Olds'': old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits.