The Love Songs of Tiedan
PRODS Sun Kui, Gao Hong, Zheng Gang
SCR Hao Jie, Ge Xia
CAM Du Pu
ED Baek Seung-Hoon
PROD DES Li Cunwang
MUS Xiao He
PROD CO Yuan Qi Culture & Development
Following his seniors’ rural sex comedy Single Man (VIFF 10), Chinese director Hao Jie returns with this beautifully realized new film. This is lively story telling, mixing local opera, history and rural customs in a comedic family tale suffused with music.
Tiedan belongs to a family of folk singers and a family of lovers. Starting in the early 1960s in a village in the north of China, we see him as a ten-year-old scamp, listening to a comic opera aria. His father and their lovely twenty-something neighbour Sister May are er ren tai performers (a local folk-singing style for two performers). May becomes part of the family and Tiedan is besotted. When May’s fierce husband shows up to drag her home, Tiedan is crushed—not for the last time.
Local music performance is banned in 1968 by Cultural Revolution hooligans. Ten years later the persecution has lifted, though Father has been blinded. May returns; Tiedan immediately falls in love with May’s eldest daughter (played, as is May, by an irrepressible Ye Lan). When she is married off to a neighbouring Mongolian, Tiedan is cast into depression, but his discovery that he’s an even more charismatic er ren tai performer than his father offers him a path to recovery. And May still has two more daughters…
Hao Jie uses mostly non-professional actors; Feng Si is particularly impressive as the intensely charismatic adult Tiedan, all angular cheekbones and fire flaring eyes. Photography is immaculate, even spectacular, gracing Hao’s romantic storytelling with a bit of formal grandeur and natural poetic beauty.
— Shelly Kraicer