The Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-76) is a compelling anomaly, the fodder for a myriad of fictional and nonfictional accounts by scintillating writers: “Wild Swans”,Jung Chang; “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress”, Dai Sijie; “A Leaf in the Bitter Wind: A Memoir”, Ting-Xing Ye; and the incomparable Pearl S. Buck’s “Three daughters of Madame Liang”. Director Zhang Yimou’s film adaptation of the novel by Yan Geling, “Coming Home” is the potently poignant story of a family crushed by the ideology of Mao Zedong; “Lu” (sensitive, tender Chen Daoming) a professor, escapes prison and tries to connect with his beloved wife “Feng” (brilliant, stunning Gong Li) and their teenage daughter “Dan Dan”( lithesome, Zhang Huiwen), a ballerina, competing for the starring position at her government dance academy; she is the quintessential proletariat, totally indoctrinated, immersed in “party politics”. The dance sequences are the balletic interpretation of a philosophy devoted to squelching individuality and lionizing military might.
Lu is recaptured, and after three years returns home to Feng, who suffers from a rare form of amnesia; no longer remembering, but perpetually waiting for her husband’s return; a simple, ordinary family, suffering a Shakespearean tragedy; Lu moves across the street and tries every tactic to trigger Feng’s memory; eventually resorts to reading letters, written during years of incarceration. Heartbreaking watching what the Cultural Revolution did to a few; a microcosm, metaphor for what it did to the masses.
Quiet desperation, sadness saturates a family, that if not for the prescience of writer Geiling and director Yimou, viewers would have never met. Another example of film’s power to elucidate, expose, and expand one’s perception of a tainted government and those who succumb or overcome its sickening, oppressive restraints.
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!