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The life of Chinese writer Xiao Hong, from her childhood in the Heilongjiang Province to her final days in Hong Kong's Repulse Bay. The love of the author's life, newspaper editor Xiao Jun and the inspiration she drew from him as well as the surrounding literary scene in creating some of China's most enduring masterpieces is explored against the backdrop of a turbulent time that included the formation of the Chinese Communist government and World War II.Written by
China Lion Film Distribution
Disjointed and poorly focused in the first 2 hours, but gathers some momentum in the final hour
"The Golden Era" is a partial depiction of the Chinese literary circles of 1930s-40s. A 2014 film directed by HK's Ann Hui, it is a biopic of Chinese writer Xiao Hong (1911-1942) whose novels "The Field of Life and Death" and "Tales of Hulan River" are now established classics. Xiao Hong is played by Tang Wei of Lust Caution fame.
The entire movie is 179 minutes long and to be entirely truthful, I'm a little disappointed with it. The last one hour is quite good, but the narrative in the first 2 hours is so muddled and difficult to follow that the film can only be said to be partially successful. The movie only picks up in my opinion at the point when Xiao Hong breaks off with her boyfriend Xiao Jun. The cinematography is gorgeous, like many Chinese films, but perhaps the screenwriter and the director must both take blame for the rather unfocused and scattered narrative in the first 2 hours. Snippets of Xiao Hong's life are interspersed with her friends speaking directly to the camera, giving an odd, alienating effect. This approach works better in the last hour when the narrative becomes more fluent and focused.
Tang Wei tries her best in the first 2 hours, but the narrative and her performance strike one as disjointed and hard to engage emotionally. The other performances from the cast are uniformly good, but we are left with a cipher of a woman and of a writer. The 179 minute running time is definitely too long. One hour can be removed by the editor and might have made a better film. The first two hours hardly touches on the subject of her writing, making Xiao Hong an awed but obscure object of adoration.
"The Golden Era" received mixed reviews, with Variety calling it "stilted", the New York Times calling it "sweeping and beautifully done" but also "overlong and too reverent, conveying little sense of Xiao Hong the person and even less of her talent", which I agree. Still, if you can watch this movie, watch it to make up your own mind.
This film won Best Film and Best Director at the 34th Hong Kong Film Awards.
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