25 June 2015 | MOscarbradley
A little seen masterpiece
For decades it was almost impossible to see Chinese films here in the West so directors like Mu Fei meant little to us but if "Spring in a Small Town" had been the only film he'd made his place in cinematic history would still be assured. This small, simple masterpiece is one of the greatest love stories ever filmed and yet the lovers hardly ever touch and never kiss and sex never rears its head and yet theirs is a passion of the most devastating kind.
The plot is incredibly simple and there are only five characters. A young husband, ill with TB, lives with his unhappy wife, his younger sister and a male servant in a house damaged from eight years of war. One day an old childhood friend comes to visit and, as it turns out, he is, unbeknown to the husband, an old flame of the wife's. The visitor is embarrassed by the situation as he awakens feelings in the wife that she has long repressed.
There's an almost Chekovian sense of loss and regret to the picture that might have seemed rare in a western film of the period. It's beautifully acted, particularly by Wei Wei as the wife, and gorgeously photographed in black and white by Shengwei Li. It was remade in 2002 by Zhuangzhuang Tian and for once the remake didn't disgrace the original and shouldn't be missed either but this is the real deal. World cinema doesn't get much better.