Black Snow

A short excerpt from the Booklet essay by Professor Shaoyi Sun.

As I was re-watching the films of Xie Fei made in the past two decades, two openings came to my mind: a hand-held camera in Black Snow (Ben ming nian, 1990) tracking the walking steps of a Beijing youngster through a subway tunnel in the dark, and a panning shot in A Girl from Hunan (Xiang nu xiao xiao, 1986) smoothly revealing the undulating landscape of Hunan, a province in Central China. The former is slightly edgy and restless, and the latter is exquisitely quiet and lyrical. The two films also differ greatly in subject matter: One follows the after-prison life of a Beijing youth and records the sound bites of the big city at the juncture of an earthshaking rebellion (the 1989 student movement); and the other tells the story of a child bride and her futile struggle with predetermined fate in a mountainous village far removed from the hustle and bustle of the big city. These two openings, when juxtaposed, are certainly of an unequivocal demonstration of the director's versatility, but as we review the entire oeuvre of Xie Fei, it becomes clear that lyricism and a gentle sense of life's sorrowfulness speak more truth about this largely undervalued cinematic master.

Born in 1942 in Yanan, cradle of the Chinese Communist Party, Xie Fei was not as lucky as his immediate students collectively labelled the Fifth Generation. His aspiration to be a filmmaker after graduating from the famed Beijing Film Academy in 1965 was abruptly interrupted by the Cultural Revolution. When he made his real debut Our Fields (Wo men de tian ye) in 1983, therefore, Xie was already in his forties. It is certainly true that Xie was greatly influenced by the general intellectual environment of the mid-1980s that called for an in-depth exploration of the root cause of the Cultural Revolution, a cultural fever movement (as it was later dubbed) that contributed a great deal to the rise of the fifth generation, but Xie's reflection on Chinese tradition and culture was much more nuanced and sophisticated. While the leading fifth generation filmmakers, who are 10 years younger than Xie, made their loudly-sounded rebellious voices heard in such works as The Yellow Earth (Chen Kaige, 1984), One and Eight (Zhang Junzhao, 1983), and Red Sorghum (Zhang Yimou, 1987), Xie Fei, arguably the leading voice of the Fourth Generation of Chinese filmmakers, sounded more subdued and toned-down with the making of A Girl from Hunan.

Shaoyi Sun’s complete Essay, from which this short excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet of the DVD release.

Home Browse The Collection Coming Soon About Second Run Shop Contact Us/Mailing List