Gorgeous, lyrical, poignant, Wo de fu qin mu qin is framed by the fierce, wintry, somber black-and-white present, with the past, in between, in lush, vivid color. (Hou Yong cinematographed.) A cosmopolitan businessman visits his northern rural home, where his father, Changyu, who has just died, was the beloved village schoolteacher. Although he is certified to teach, Yusheng has never taught and has never married (the film implies the sterility of an increasingly capitalistic China); his parents, by contrast, were mutually devoted for forty years. Their romance occupies the film’s middle, as an old family photograph shifts Yusheng’s mind to his parents’ meeting and falling in love, as Yusheng has come to “travel” these events. Yusheng’s steady, solemn voiceover enters a domain of love and sweeping feeling; some trouble Changyu experienced with authorities—offscreen, because this wasn’t discussed—led to his “restriction” and temporarily separated the pair. (The life he has lived vicariously may have become more vivid to Yusheng than his own.) Bound in love to his mother, Di, and his father’s memory, Yusheng helps arrange for the traditional funeral march that his mother insists on despite its disfavor since the Cultural Revolution.
Zhang Ziyi and Zhao Yulian are superb as the young and older Di. Working from a fine, haunting script by Shi Bao based on his own novel, director Zhang Yimou applies tracking shots to 18-year-old Di’s dashes through landscape to capture glimpses of the boy she is in love with, wringing from the moving camera powerful emotional mileage. Di’s meticulous decoration of Changyu’s schoolroom, her sitting alone inside the empty classroom: these suggest intense sexual sublimations. The final color coda freezes a long-shot of young Di on the road home; in its stasis we experience the heart-aching rush of time.
Tags: Zhang Yimou