BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


During China's Cultural Revolution, two young men from the city are sent deep into the mountains to be re-educated in Maoism - that is, to work alongside uneducated peasants. They comply, yet remain privately dismissive (one keeps his forbidden Western violin after explaining the tune he is playing is "Mozart Is Thinking of Mao"). After finding a cache of 19th-century novels, they set about to secretly educate an ignorant but charming young seamstress, with whom both men have fallen in love. Dai Sijie's gentle coming-of-age drama tweaks the notion of re-education, exploring how, inevitably, people learn only the lessons they want. The film is based on Sijie's autobiographical novel, which perhaps explains why the film begins by depicting the villagers' rustic ways contemptuously -- but, in a coda set in contemporary semi-Westernized China, professes a certain nostalgia for the purity of the traditional ways. In Mandarin, with subtitles. Squirrel Hill (AH)