Leben!: Directed by Yimou Zhang. With You Ge, Gong Li, Ben Niu, Wu Jiang. After Fugui and Jiazhen lose their personal fortunes, they raise a family and survive difficult cultural changes during 1940s to 1970s China.
“This is Zhang Yimouu0026#39;s and Gong Liu0026#39;s crowning triumph — a top candidate for the greatest Chinese film of all time. Splendidly photographed and composed, consumately acted and faithfully scored, u0026quot;To Liveu0026quot; is a three or four hour film novel lovingly packed into two hours and fifteen minutes. For a long time, Ingmar Bergmanu0026#39;s u0026quot;Fanny and Alexanderu0026quot; stood by itself as the greatest family epic in my moviegoing experience. u0026quot;The Best Years of Our Livesu0026quot; ran a distant second. But since 1995 u0026quot;To Liveu0026quot; has moved into a very close second.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003enMost Chinese who lived through Maou0026#39;s Revolution say this film tells it like it was at the simple townsperson level. Though it can serve as an overview of Chinese history 1944 to 1970 or so, unlike Leanu0026#39;s u0026quot;Gandhiu0026quot; or u0026quot;Lawrence of Arabiau0026quot;, this is not a herou0026#39;s biopic. Instead we see a foolish, once rich but now fallen heir and his wife blown about by the winds of fortune for three decades and challenged as parents trying to raise two children under increasingly harsh and punitive communist tyranny. What you sense in this film, that Iu0026#39;ve never seen before in any Chinese film, is how the ethical and moral principles that have prevailed in Chinese culture for 2500 years – a mix of transcendence and pragmatism, humility and grit, cosmic harmonic balance and social duty – allows an ordinary couple to accept unbearable tragedy and keep going. It also shows what this survival strategy costs them in their Communist context. The screenplay is full of cosmic irony. It makes us aware, without shouting, that this is just one family among millions. As Yimouu0026#39;s transitional screen message says: u0026quot;…leaving no family unaffectedu0026quot;. It is to that extent, a tribute film.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eMaybe ten hours of Kieslowskiu0026#39;s u0026quot;Decalogueu0026quot; might accomplish the same broad survey of of human happenstance and emotion. Maybe Kurosawa in three or four hours. But never in two plus hours have I seen the scope Zhang Yimou achieves here. u0026quot;To Liveu0026quot; also contains as wise a moral lesson as any film Iu0026#39;ve seen, and itu0026#39;s a gentle one despite the surrounding violence. I couldnu0026#39;t paraphrase the lesson for you. I wouldnu0026#39;t try. Just watch. It will reach you non-verbally in about 90 minutes. Just know, this isnu0026#39;t Shakespeare, Hollywood or soap opera. Itu0026#39;s something else.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003enGong Liu0026#39;s work is as powerful as anything Streep or Sarandon have ever done in the west – which is all the more inspiring since the camera doesnu0026#39;t lavish star-level attention on her. As her husband, Ge You turns in an emotionally riveting, charming, sometimes funny and devastatingly honest performance. The direction is sure handed, the shooting unfailingly gorgeous. Zhang Yimouu0026#39;s cinematic canvass has never been so big or his palette so colorful and controlled. Full of spectacle, great sweeps of time and onrushing tides of humanity, u0026quot;To Liveu0026quot; is still, in the end, a sweet and poignant epic with an intimate, observant heart. Great story telling. Do not miss! Try to view a letterbox version on a big screen.”