The Spring River Flows East

Film
The second Peak Film Industries production (after 8,000 Li) was this epic melodrama released in two parts: Eight Years of Turmoil and Before and After Dawn. Idealistic night school teacher Zhang (Tao Jin, terrific) marries factory worker Sufen (Bai Yang, too glamorous!) in Shanghai in 1931. When the Japanese invasion begins, he goes off to the front lines with the Red Cross - but winds up in Chungking, where he subsides into drink and self-pity. Gradually he reinvents himself as a businessman and marries a society hostess, while his real family, evicted by the Japanese, starves in a squatter camp. This was political dynamite at the time, and it stands up remarkably well as a Dickensian saga rhyming one family's tragedy with the nation's fate. The staginess of the dialogue scenes is offset by the visual eloquence of the rest. The director credit properly belongs to Zheng Junli; co-author Cai Chusheng was reportedly too scared of the KMT censors to show up on the set.

By: TR

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