Chinese actress Gong Li has been the muse of director Zhang Yimou for over three decades. Their filmmaking partnership has produced some of China's greatest films.
It all began when Zhang Yimou made his directorial debut with Red Sorghum in 1987, and cast Gong Li, an unknown drama student at the time, as the leading lady. Thus began the professional and private partnership of two of China's greats, until 1995, when they parted ways in both arenas.
However, they reunited in 2006 for the tragic film The Curse of the Golden Flower, and are now returning for the 2014 movie Coming Home that has been long awaited by fans.
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The Zhang Yimou and Gong Li collaborations start on Friday the 6th of March, till Thursday the 12th of March, and the 8 films on offer are as follows: -
Friday 6 March at 7.30pm - Coming Home (109 mins). This latest 2014 offering is about a family torn apart by politics, and focuses on the relationship between the school teacher-mother and her aspiring ballet dancer daughter, when the man of the house escapes the government re-education camp.
Saturday 7 March at 6pm - The Curse of the Golden Flower (114 mins). With royalty at its core, this film is full of intricate plots and epic battles, not to mention illicit trysts when an Emperor steals an Empress. She develops secrets of her own, and he also has his own devious plans, causing all hell to break loose as each member of the royal court is lost in their desire for power and revenge.
Saturday 7 March at 7.30pm - Shanghai Triad (108 mins) Nominated for best cinematography, you'll find the glamour of 1930s Shanghai in this mob-related story. This is the story of an unworldly villager, who is hired to work as a minder for a nightclub singer, and mistress to the powerful mobster. During their escape from the city, just when they are coming to grips with reality, their world is turned upside down.
Sunday 8 March at 3.30pm - To Live (125 mins).
The story of a noble family, who lose everything thanks to the gambling husband. With greater hardships ahead, this is a story of unending resilience for the future, as they work through their personal tragedies and the tumultuous social upheaval of the time.
Sunday 8 March at 6.15pm - The Story of Qiu Ju (100 mins). Qiu Ju is about a pregnant woman's fight for justice, when her husband is kicked by the village chief in the testicles, leaving him barren. In her most unglamorous role, Gong Li is a shining star as a peasant woman in her unstoppable search for justice.
Monday 9 March at 4pm - Raise the Red Lantern (125 mins). A university student is sold to a wealthy master in the 1920s, to be his fourth concubine. Her arrival brings deception and rivalry to the fore, as the other concubines fiercely compete for the attention of their master.
Monday 9 March at 6.30pm - Ju Dou (95 mins).
The story of a tyrannical, rural silk-dyeing factory owner and his beautiful young wife. Wanting an heir and unable to admit he's the problem, he brings nightly raids and bitter treatment upon his wife. She then begins an affair with his adopted nephew, and falls deeply in love with him. With the passing years, the burden of this love triangle has nowhere to go, without bringing the whole house down.
Thursday 12 March at 7pm - Red Sorghum (91 mins).
Set in the northern province of Shandog in the late 1920s, a young girl is given to a wealthy old wine maker in exchange for a mule. A brutish, passionate young man saves her when her transport is hijacked by a local bandit. An affair begins when they next meet and her husband suddenly dies. So begins a new chapter for her, with her lover.
Wow, this sounds like a whole lot of good choices. A lover of foreign films, I might have to set up camp at the Acmi to cover it all.
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ACMI at Federation Square has been running their China Up Close event since December, and it's coming to a close this month. If you haven't already frequented the ACMI for this event, now is the time to catch it before it ends.
The Home Song Stories screens for the last time this Saturday, the 7th of March. Starring the beautiful Joan Chen, this film about a Chinese mother who married an Australian, has won 8 AFI awards, including best film, best direction, and best lead actress for Chen. Tickets are just $7, as it is for the film Mao's Last Dancer as well, which screens just one more time on the 14th of March.
The Iron Ministry by American documentarian J.P. Sniadecki, is about modern China as seen through the eyes of its people. This Saturday, 7th March is its last screening, and tickets will cost you between $13 and $17. Check out the website, as they always have a lot on their plate for us to enjoy.