Fugui and Jiazhen endure tumultuous events in China as their personal fortunes move from wealthy landownership to peasantry. Addicted to gambling, Fugui loses everything. In the years that follow he is pressed into both the nationalist and communist armies, while Jiazhen is forced into menial work. They raise a family and survive, managing “to live” from the 40’s to the 70’s in this epic, but personal, story of life through an amazing period.
User Reviews: Impressive observational film about mid-20th-century China, which is brought into focus through the tribulations of one family over a thirty-plus-year period. Others here have called it a Chinese `Gone with the Wind,’ but in this respect it’s more like a Chinese `Les Misérables,’ albeit on a smaller scale. What’s most remarkable about it is how it manages to be both a political film, and an objective one–it judges the political happenings that serve as its backdrop, yes, but we never get the sense that it is PRE-judging them. `Huozhe’ is no propaganda film–it allows its events to unfold organically, and allows us to infer its meaning on our own. The fact that director Zhang Yimou’s approach is so delicate makes what happened after the film’s release even more sad, and more telling–the film was banned, and Zhang and one of his stars, Gong Li, were barred from filmmaking for two years. Casual viewers may find that shocking, as the overall tone is one of affection and optimism for one’s country, and the characters are more interested in simply staying together (and alive) than in declaring any kind of political allegiance. Technically, the film is lovely as well, with beautiful cinematography and fine performances by Ge You and Gong making it as satisfying aesthetically as it is intellectually. 8 out of 10.