South of the Clouds (image 1)

Screened as part of NZIFF 2004

South of the Clouds 2004

Yun de Nanfang

Directed by Zhu Wen

China In Mandarin with English subtitles
100 minutes 35mm

Director, Screenplay

Photography

Wang Min

Editor

Kong Jinlei

Music

Zuoxiao Zuzhou

With

Li Xuejian
,
Liu Changsheng
,
Jin Zi
,
Tian Zhuangzhuang

Festivals

Berlin 2004

Elsewhere

With his second film, novelist-cum-director Zhu Wen has seamlessly made the shift from underground to government-approved production. Even so, South of the Clouds, his first ‘above ground’ film, is a striking change of pace from last year’s grungy cops-and-hookers flick Seafood. His new film follows sixty-something widower and retiree Xu Daqin who, freed from the restraints of work and marriage, is obsessed with making a long-deferred trip to the exotic southern province of Yunnan. Xu’s retirement trip is bound up in shrouded motives from his past. As a young man he had intended to work in the south, but had to pass up the chance when an affair with a girl led suddenly into marriage. His trip south gives him a taste of the alternative dream life he has imagined all these years, but goes awry when an extortion scam lands him in jail. Zhu’s moving ode to the sacrifices made by his parents’ generation is one of this year’s best Chinese films, above- or underground. — MM