The Spring River Flows East ★★★★

Billed as "China's Gone with the Wind" (and, by the way, how great would a series of movies billed like that, "_______'s Gone with the Wind", be?), released in two parts in the interregnum between the end of the Anti-Japanese War and the end of the Civil War between the Communists and the Nationalist KMT. The first part is an episodic chronicle of the life of a family split apart during the war (the wife, mother and child trudge through refugee camps while the father, a battlefield medic becomes a POW). Every few scenes an on-screen title jumps us ahead another year, creating a literally choppy narrative of melodramatic high points that had me thinking this should have been more appropriately considered "China's Cavalcade". But in the second half, things first slow down, get pretty twisted (the father, after escaping the Japanese, marries into Chunking high society, despite probably knowing his wife is still alive somewhere) and then begin to come together in a final 45 minutes or so that also isn't so much Gone with the Wind as it is Mikio Naruse, or at least Kenji Mizoguchi in a didactic mood. I don't think its a coincidence that the film ends in the time and place that Shanghai Blues is set, but it might be.