Devils on the Doorstep
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Time Out saysJiang's second film as director echoes the structure of Red Sorghum, the film which launched him as a star: a broadly comic story of peasant cowardice, heroism and rivalry is abruptly curtailed by a Japanese army massacre. Devils, though, adds a smart, sardonic coda. Set in 1944/45, on the eve of Japan's defeat, it centres on a North China villager (Jiang) who is dismayed to have foisted on him two prisoners: a Japanese soldier and a Chinese collaborator. The resistance never turns up to reclaim them and he eventually hits on the idea of ransoming them back to the local Japanese garrison. Framed as a gallery of human weaknesses, the film darkens its tone to suggest that fear and paranoia can make anyone capable of being a 'devil'. This sprawling version won a major prize in Cannes; a shorter export cut is promised.