The Sun Also Rises ★★★★½

Four intertwined tales from the end of the Cultural Revolution from director-star Jiang Wen. More dream than logical narrative, the emphasis more on image and emotion, exactly the opposite of Hemingway, in fact. A mother buys a pair of shoes and seemingly goes insane: begins talking to birds, climbing trees, digging holes and generally confusing the hell out of her son, recently promoted to group leader of their rural collective. Anthony Wong as a teacher in Shanghai is lusted after by many women (included Joan Chen as an aggressively vivacious doctor), then accused of groping and chased by a mob. Jiang Wen and his wife move (are removed) to the collective form the first story, where Jiang teachers the local kids how to hunt and the wife has an affair with the crazy woman's son. Finally, a flashback to 20 years earlier, where we see further connections amongst the characters.

The film opens with quick cuts, flashes of images of the mother's dream that seem more like a movie trailer than the proper beginning of a film. It quickly settles in to a less hectic rhythm, but after throwing us off-kilter at the start, Jiang never really lets us settle down, omitting just enough narrative detail to keep us a little bit confused while packing the film with potent and spooky imagery: an empty suit of clothes floating down a river, two men facing off on a green bridge, the beautiful vastness of the Northern deserts, train tracks covered with flowers, a man waiting for his fiancee at "the end of the road", a man walking happily through an open air cinema, a cabin in the woods, a hole in the ground, a hole in the roof, the sun rises but isn't quite sure if it should.

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