Thursday, November 10, 2011
I love 周冬雨
We went to see the Chinese film "Call My Name Under the Hawthorne Tree". It is the Chinese version of Erich Segal's Love Story full of tear provoking unrealized love/horrible tragedy scenes in a Cultural Revolution environment. Who was the Western idiot that said that Chinese faces are unscrutable, unexpressive? Who said that Maoist patriotic dances are ugly? But the best are the children: delightful, beautiful, intelligent, funny.
This is the first time that I visualize the Cultural Revolution, and it is not what I imagined by reading the stories of the Chinese intellectuals in English. The re-education in the countryside is a long vacation, the party's rule is paternal, equality is liked by the common people. The history of the Cultural Revolution in English was written by pretentious, class-conscious career-obsessed intellectuals, who felt deeply insulted and depressed by having to share with ignorant and dirty peasants; teachers and university students that feared being taken by common working class people. For Chinese "Tiger Mothers" (there seems to be no other variety) the re-education was, at best, a terrible waste of time that should have been spent on passing exams and getting promoted in the state hierarchy.
In the story, Jiang is a 17 y.o. high school student, daughter of a declasse family (mother a "rightist" teacher demoted to cleaning lady) and the only hope of the family to climb out of "black political background" and economic misery. When the mother discovers that she had fallen in love with the son of a high class Party mandarin, she forbids the relationship because it could ruin her daughter's carreer. That is the core conflict of the story and it reaches it dramatic resolution when the boy dies of leukemia. As in all Communist propaganda, the end must be uplifting, so the epilogue informs that the heroine succeeded in her social climbing project and eventually was sent to study in America - the acme of success for Chinese intellectuals of that generation.