Spring in a Small Town
|Spring in a Small Town|
|Directed by||Fei Mu|
|Written by||Short story:
|Distributed by||United States (DVD):
Spring in a Small Town (Chinese: 小城之春; pinyin: Xiǎochéng zhī chūn) is a Chinese film released in 1948 and directed by Fei Mu. The film was based on a short story by Li Tianji (Chinese: 李天濟; pinyin: Lǐ Tiānjì), and was produced by the Wenhua Film Company.
Though its reputation suffered after 1949 in mainland China after the Communist revolution, within the last 20 years it had become known as one of the greatest Chinese films ever made. The original negative of the film is kept at the China Film Archive.
Taking place in a ruined family compound after the Sino-Japanese War, the film tells the story of the once prosperous Dai family. The husband and patriarch, Dai Liyan (Shi Yu) is an invalid, and spends his days in the courtyard nostalgic for the past. His marriage to Zhou Yuwen (Wei Wei) has long been rendered loveless, though both still feel concern for the other. Liyan's young teenage sister Dai Xiu (Zhang Hongmei), meanwhile, is too young to remember the past, and stays cheerful and playful in the ruins of her home. Lao Huang (Cui Chaoming) is an old faithful servant of the Dai family.
Into this dreary but unchanging existence comes an unexpected visit from Liyan's childhood friend Zhang Zhichen (Li Wei), a doctor from Shanghai and a former flame of Zhou Yuwen before she ever met her husband. The rest of the film details the love quadrangle among Zhou Yuwen, Dai Liyan, Zhang Zhichen and Dai Xiu. Zhou Yuwen is conflicted between her love for Zhang and her loyalty to her husband and his family. Dai Liyan loves his wife, but feels unworthy for her and ashamed of himself, especially in comparison with Zhang Zhicheng. Dai Xiu, newly turned sixteen, develops romantic feelings for Zhang Zhichen. Zhang Zhichen is conflicted between his love for Zhou Yuwen and his loyalty to his friend Dai Liyan. That Zhou Yuwen and Zhang Zhichen still loved each other soon became apparent to Dai Liyan and Dai Xiu. Dai Liyan attempts suicide, but is resuscitated by Zhang Zhichen. Zhang Zhichen departs, and Lao Huang and Dai Xiu walks him off to the train station. He promises to return in a year. Zhou Yuwan, watching from the wall, is joined by her husband by her side, as Zhang Zhichen departs.
- Wei Wei (韋偉) as Zhou Yuwen (周玉紋 Zhōu Yùwén), the heroine;
- Shi Yu (石羽) as Dai Liyan (戴禮言 Dài Lǐyán), her husband;
- Li Wei as Zhang Zhichen (章志忱 Zhāng Zhìchén), Dai Liyan's childhood friend and Yuwen's former lover
- Cui Chaoming as Lao Huang (老黃 lǎo Huáng), Dai and Yuwen's loyal servant;
- Zhang Hongmei as Dai Xiu (戴秀 Dài Xiù), Dai Liyan's young sister.
Made after the war and the so-called "Solitary Island" period of Shanghai film-making, Spring in a Small Town, unlike its leftist predecessors of the 1930s, was a more intimate affair with only tangential references to the politics of the day. Indeed, the film can be distinguished from those earlier works by its more mature treatment of inter-personal conflicts, particularly in the sense that there are no villains or antagonists except for time and circumstance. Even the husband, who ostensibly stands between Zhou Yuwen and Zhang Zhichen's love, is an inherently decent and good human being.
Because of this apparent lack of "political" grounding, Spring in a Small Town was rejected by the Communists as rightist or reactionary, and was ignored following the Communist victory in China in 1949. The film was only able to find its audience and had a resurgence in popularity after the China Film Archive made a new print in the early 1980s. Today it is considered one of the classics of Chinese film. In 2005 the Hong Kong Film Awards Association named it the greatest Chinese film ever made. Sixth Generation film director Wang Chao also declared the film to be one of his favorites and Fei Mu the director he most admired. In 2002, the film was remade by Tian Zhuangzhuang as Springtime in a Small Town.
An earlier all-region DVD version was also released in the United States by the Guangzhou Beauty Culture Communication Co. Ltd on December 1, 2006.
- "Spring in a Small Town". Film Society of Lincoln Center.
- "BAM/PFA - Film Programs". University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
- "Springtime in a Small Town". Artificial Eye.
- Zhang Yingjin, "Introduction" in Cinema and Urban Culture in Shanghai, 1922–1943, ed. Yingjin Zhang (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 8.
- Spring in a Small Town
- "‘Spring in a Small Town’ tops best 100 Chinese films," Sina English, March 15, 2005 (15 August 2006).
- "Five Questions for Wang Chao". that's Beijing. 2006-06-30. Retrieved 2008-08-02.