A/B side VIBES. Greatest Hits from ‘80s & ‘90s
INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL PREMIERE
血色清晨 (Xue Si Qing Chen)
China, 1992, 94’, Mandarin
Directed by: Li Shaohong
Screenplay: Li Shaohong, Xiao Mao, based on the novella by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Photography (color): Zeng Nianping
Editing: Zhou Xinxia
Music: Meng Weidong
Sound: Wu Ling
Producers: Tian Yuping, Li Xiaogeng
Production Company: Beijing Film Studio
Cast: Zhaohui (Li Pingwa), Hu Yajie (Li Mingguang), Lu Hui (Li Hongxing), Kong Lin (Li Gouwa), Wang Quanwang, Xie Yan, Zhao Jun
Date of First Release in the Territory: June 27th, 1992
The adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story Chronicle of a Death Foretold was a somewhat risky project for the young Li Shaohong, one of the Fifth Generation of filmmakers who graduated in 1982 from the Beijing Film Academy, which reopened at the end of the Cultural Revolution. Her classmates had already made a name for themselves with films that explored China’s past – such as the early works by Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou – or contemporary urban society, with, for example, Huang Jianxin’s films, implicitly criticising both the dark, feudal mentality of the past as well as the rigidity of the socialist system. Li Shaohong chose to delve into rural China, struggling to keep up with the political and social changes of those crucial years of economic reforms ushered in by Deng Xiaoping, where modern state law was ignored in favour of tribal law, and where ignorance and traditional mentality still prevailed. But it was a successful challenge, as the film quickly became the subject of heated debate in cultural circles, picking up several awards both in China and abroad, including the Golden Balloon at the 1992 Nantes Film Festival.
Garcia Marquez’s story was already well-known and had already been adapted for the screen by Francesco Rosi in 1987. Although it tells the story of a murder, the heart of the tale is not the investigation of the motives behind the crime in order to identify those responsible, but rather the exploration of the collective responsibility of a community that knew what was going to happen and did nothing to prevent it. Like the book, the film is not a thriller; the story is clear from the start, a man is murdered in front of an entire village, and two brothers immediately declare that they killed him to avenge the honour of the family: after her wedding night, the sister of the two men had been disowned by her husband when he discovered that she was not a virgin. A magistrate arrives in the village – a remote place impoverished by centuries of hardship – and begins investigating the murder, which in the film is reconstructed through flashbacks. All the witnesses – basically, the entire village – are methodically interrogated by the magistrate. Each has a different and apparently valid motivation for not having either stopped the two brothers – who had announced their intention to avenge their sister’s honour – or alerted the victim to give him time to flee or at least be ready to defend himself.
The murdered young man was the teacher of the village school, the only intellectual in the community who, instead of emigrating, had chosen to stay and educate the new generations. Through the various witness accounts collected by the magistrate, a dynamic of social relations emerges, made up of envy, misplaced puritanism, mistrust of intellectuals, and tribal relations that have paralysed the collective psyche. The psychological labyrinth in which the tragedy unfolds is also reflected in the layout of the village, with its dusty paths that intertwine with one another, and damp, claustrophobic interiors. But the narrative never becomes impassioned, the structure of the film remains almost journalistic, describing the facts while keeping its distance. Although it tells the story of a murder, it is not so much the crime that is shocking and outrageous, but the villagers’ attitude and passivity; an important and problematic theme – and the fact that Li Shaohong’s film dealt with the issue – guaranteed it a place in the annals of contemporary Chinese cinema.
Film and television director and producer, Li Shaohong joined the army at the age of fourteen and worked in a military hospital. Admitted to the Beijing Film Academy in 1978, the year the Academy reopened after the Cultural Revolution, she graduated in 1982. Considered one of the leading exponents of the Fifth Generation of filmmakers, her first film The Case of the Silver Snake (1988) was co-directed by Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige. Her first success came with Bloody Morning (1992). Her films have received many awards both in China and abroad. She owns a major film and television production company.
1988 – The Case of the Silver Snake
1992 – Bloody Morning
1993 – Family Portrait
1995 – Blush
2000 – The Red Suit
2004 – Baober in Love
2005 – Stolen Life
2006 – The Door
2019 – A City Called Macao
2019 – Liberation
2022 – Hero (segment “China – Wuhan Story”)