Political Film Society - Newsletter #308 - June 15, 2008

June 15, 2008


The Children of Huang ShiA biopic about George Hogg (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers), The Children of Huang Shi begins as he enters Shanghai as a journalist, camera in hand. British, he is witness to the “Rape of Nanjing” of 1937, capturing the arbitrary massacres of civilians on film. However, Japanese soldiers spot him, discover that he has photographic evidence of an atrocity, and nearly execute him when a Communist resistance group alights on the scene to shoot his captors. The leader of the unit, Chen Hansheng (played by Chow Yun Fat), takes Hogg to a makeshift hospital presided over by American woman, Lee Pearson (played by Radha Mitchell), who is acting as a nurse. Soon, Hogg is escorted to Huang Shi, where at an orphanage some distance from the battle zone he is in charge of young boys ranging in age from toddlers to teens with hardly any knowledge of the Chinese spoken language. The oldest organizes some of his compatriots to beat Hogg when the Chinese cook of the establishment arrives to stop the cruelty. Hogg then has to find a reason to make himself indispensible when Mitchell appears to tell him that she had him sent there and will return two months hence. Hogg then goes to the open market nearby to bargain with the proprietor of a store, Mrs. Wang (played by Michelle Yeoh), for vegetable seeds in exchange for a promise to surrender a portion of the crop. Fortunately, at least one of the boys is a farmer’s son, and the plants flourish. Meanwhile, Hogg has set up a school, appointing Ching (played by Naihan Yang) as the teacher after first teaching him some English. Inevitably, the battle zone expands, so Hogg decides to take his students and some belongings from the orphanage 700 miles toward the Gobi Desert to safety, a dangerous trek through snow country. Without giving away the ending, which is still a good fifteen minutes more in the film, several octogenarian survivors of the orphanage eulogize Hogg as final credits roll. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, who received a Political Film Society nomination for Air America (1990), the cinematography of Gansu alone is worth the price of admission. MH

When Tuya’s Marriage (Tuya de hun shi) begins, tears flow from the eyes of Tuya (played by Yu Nan). The rest of the film, directed by Quanan Wang, reverts to an earlier time to explain why. Tuya has been scraping out an existence in a barren part of Inner Mongolia with Bater (played by Bater), a crippled husband, an infant child, and a flock of sheep tended by their preteen son, Zhaya (played by Zhaya). Water is running out, she injures herself so that she cannot tend the family business, so they are desperate. Tuya, therefore, seeks a new husband and officially divorces Bater to become marriageable, but she does not want to abandon Bater to an old people’s home. Potential suitors come and go, but she is unhappy with them all. Sen’ge (played by Sen-ge) claims that he wants to divorce his unfaithful wife to marry her, but before the divorce goes through, Tuya commits to a new husband, Baolier, a former classmate who is now an oil tycoon. He wants to park Bater in a government facility and let him die. Sen’ge then appears to propose just in time. The scene with Tuya’s tears then appears on the screen with an explanation that may bring the same to filmviewers. The time period, the heyday of Deng Xioping, gives further meaning to the story, as Baolier typifies the new generation of sharp men of business who are abandoning traditional Chinese virtues. MH