11:00 - 27th July 2014, by Calum Waddell

Spring in a Small Town

Long considered one of the greatest Chinese films ever produced, Spring in a Small Town gets a brief arthouse stint from the BFI before it arrives on home video early next year. Given the movie's lofty historical status, and the re-mastering job that this theatrical jaunt has encouraged, we obviously recommend seeing this minimalist little classic in the darkened environment of a cinema - if only to support such an ambitious re-release.

Still capable of delivering an emotional uppercut, Spring in a Small Town is a fiercely contemplative feature and one that it is impossible to separate from its era. Indeed, made just before Mao's forces 'united' China under a totalitarian form of brutal government-controlled manufacturing (which culminated in a famine that killed millions), Spring in a Small Town is strangely innocent but also subtly sinister. The story is driven by an onscreen narration and focuses upon an invalid man who yearns for his past and is trapped within a loveless marriage. His wife, meanwhile, encounters a former flame and fights an emotional battle - questioning whether or not to stay with her husband, whom she still cares for, or consider a new life with her ex-lover. Intentional or not, the spectre of a changing China hangs over Spring in a Small Town, which is tenderly directed by Fei Mu (this was his last movie). It is a pre-Mao, post-imperial mediation on family, and country, in a period that was heading for a revolution that transformed both country and continent.

Spring has rarely been so bittersweet. Historically essential, this is a BFI release to cherish.
SCORE: 4/5
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