The Blue Kite

I feel stupid writing this review. I guess I didn't get a very good education in high school, because I have zero knowledge of the historical events depicted in this film. Today I watched The Blue Kite, directed by Tian Zhuangzhuang in 1993. It was infamously banned in China for it's political leanings. I feel really bad that I didn't have any historical background for this film, and if I did learn about these at some point, I clearly forgot immediately. I know that my appreciation for the movie would have been enriched, had I known anything about the actual events. I was still able to appreciate and like the film, however. I liked that it focused not on the politics of what happened, but on normal people, and there was a certain tone to the movie that I really liked.

The film follows a family as they age during three important events in China's history -  Hundred Flowers Campaign, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.  The film starts out as Shujaun marries her new husband, Shaolong. They soon have a little boy that they name Tietou, which means  "iron head."Although things start out great for them, they soon find their lives caught up in the changing politics around them, and they are all affected greatly. There is much sadness in the film, because of the suffering they endure. For me, there was frustration, because I didn't understand why these things were happening to them, and at points, neither did they.

Although I found myself a little lost at times, I also found this movie really easy to relate to. This is because, as Ebert writes, ""The Blue Kite" gains much of its power by being about everyday, unexceptional lives. There are no villains. We never see a major party leader. Even the mobs that roam through the streets, plastering posters and shouting slogans, are neighbors who at some level are simply trying to do the right thing" (Great Movies II, 70). I love that we are grounded in normal life. Too often, historical or political movies don't capture what it was like for an average person to live through the evens - but this film does. It was nice to see real, normal people on both sides, and while I might not have walked away with too much fact-based knowledge, I think I came away with a good sense of what it was like to actually experience those times.

Ebert writes in his essay that the director said that many of the stories told in the film are true. He writes, ""The stories in the film are real, and they are related with total sincerity," the director said at the time. Some of them were based on his own experiences" (Great Movies II, 70). Reading this afterwards, the film had a new complexity and meaning. The director made this because he lived it, and he knew others who lived it. He wanted to show what their day-to-day lives were like, and to create an honest and real account of the events. I think the stories told felt very real already, but it was emotional for me to read that many of them really happened.

I know this is a dumb post because of my useless memory and education, but I really did like the movie. It's worth renting and watching - it's an incredible story and is told through a unique perspective. It's hard to find movies like this that aren't just focused on the politics and actual events, and I found the focus on people to be really refreshing. Let me know if you check it out!

Have any of you see The Blue Kite? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on The Blue Kite

Bob le Flambeur

The Birth of a Nation