Cut for international distribution from the 165 minute, two-part original, this - like Xie Jin's Two Stage Sisters - is a potent blend of the political and personal. It begins in 1963, in the remote rural backwater of the title: through determination and hard work, beancurd-seller Hu Yuyin makes enough money to build a new house for herself and her timid husband. But Maoist plans are afoot to clean up the country, and Hu Yuyin is accused of self-enrichment at the expense of the state. Betrayal, denunciation and humiliation abound as her life steadily falls apart; with the advent of the 1966 'Cultural Revolution', intrigue and paranoia are epidemic. Xie's portrait of China's traumatic, turbulent history ranges from '63 to the post-'Gang of Four' years, his palette the changing fortunes of an entangled group of individuals. It's impressive both for the elegant precision with which the director fills his scope frame with small, significant details, and for the discreet understatement that controls his own special brand of epic melodrama. In some ways similar to the classic romances of Frank Borzage, Hibiscus Town is a moving account of survival in the face of widespread social and political madness, told with clarity, compassion and insight.
Cast and crew
Ah Cheng, Xie Jin