Spring in a Small Town (1948) 小城之春

Overview

Chinese Name:小城之春

English Name: Spring in a Small Town

Director: Fei Mu费穆

Screenwriter: Li Tianji李天济

Starring: Wei Wei韦伟, Shi Yu石羽, Li Wei李纬

Release Year:1948

Running time: 93 min

Spring in a Small Town 小城之春
Spring in a Small Town 小城之春

Brief Introduction of Spring in a Small Town

Spring in a Small Town (小城之春) is a feature film directed by Fei Mu and starring Shi Yu, Li Wei, Wei Wei, and Zhang Hongmei.

The film tells the story of a married woman who meets her former lover again when her husband has been ill for a long time. The film was released in 1948. In 1995, it was selected as one of the 10 classic works in the 90-year history of Chinese films. In 2005, he was awarded first place in the Centennial top 100 films by the golden image award. At the same time, it was also rated 127 of the top 250 in film history by 846 film critics of the British film magazine Seeing and Listening (13 votes).

Plot of Spring in a Small Town

Spring in a Small Town Still-1
Spring in a Small Town Still-1

The story takes place in a small town in the south after the victory of the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. Another spring is coming. The squire Dai Liyan (Shi Yu) and his family, his wife Zhou Yuwen (Wei Wei), his sister Dai Xiu (Zhang Hongmei), and his servant Lao Huang (Cui Chaoming), live as usual.

Li Yan lost his family property in the war, was seriously ill, lost the courage to face the reality, and was depressed all day. His sister Dai Xiu is cheerful and lively, full of beautiful fantasies about the future. Facing the dilapidated situation of the family, the wife Yuwen and her husband Liyan live a dull life. The husband and wife respect each other as guests, but there is no passion.

Spring in a Small Town Still-2
Spring in a Small Town Still-2

This dull life was disrupted by the young doctor Zhang Zhichen (Li Wei) who came to the small town. He had been a friend of Li Yan for eight years and was a lover of Yuwen in the past. In those years, they had a good relationship, but they were separated by Yuwen’s mother. Now Yuwen’s mother is dead, but she had been married.

Spring in a Small Town Still-3
Spring in a Small Town Still-3

Zhang Zhichen lives in Dai’s house as a doctor for Li Yan. His arrival has caused huge waves in Yuwen’s heart. The two often go on a date without letting Li Yan know. They all sigh when talking about the past years. Zhichen has nothing to do about the current situation that Yuwen has become someone else’s wife. Their feelings are restricted by “propriety and righteousness” and “faithfulness”. They don’t want to be separated but they feel confused.

Spring in a Small Town Still-4
Spring in a Small Town Still-4

Dai Xiu, Liyan’s sister, fell in love with Zhichen. Liyan talked about it with Yuwen and wanted Yuwen to help but Yuwen opposed it from the bottom of her heart and refused his request. When talking with Zhichen, Yuwen revealed it to him, and Zhichen refused either.

It was Dai Xiu’s birthday. Several people held a banquet to celebrate. Zhichen and Yuwen, who were bored, were drunk. Li Yan guessed something about their special relationship through their behavior. Later, after thinking about it, he felt that his wife should not be dragged down all her life, so he decided to make them both happy, and he swallowed sleeping pills and tried to kill himself.

Spring in a Small Town Still-5
Spring in a Small Town Still-5

After the rescue, Li Yan came back to life. Through these twists and turns, Yuwen also understands her feelings with her husband again. She chooses to live with her husband again, and Zhichen also decides to leave the town. One spring morning, Yuwen, Liyan, and his sister Dai Xiu saw Zhichen off on the wall of the city. They watched Zhichen go to the outside world.

Accolades of Spring in a Small Town

The film was only able to find its audience and had a resurgence in popularity after the China Film Archive made a new print in the early 1980s. Today, it is considered one of the most classic masterworks in Chinese film history. In 2011, the film was enlisted in the list of the top best 100 Chinese films, by the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee.

In 2005, the Hong Kong Film Awards Association named it the greatest Chinese film ever made. Sixth Generation film director Wang Chao also declared the film to be one of his favorites and Fei Mu the director he most admired.[24] In 2002, the film was remade by Tian Zhuangzhuang as Springtime in a Small Town.

Film Review of Spring in a Small Town

Spring in a Small Town” is a very simple movie–a simple premise, a small cast and it’s all done in a very restrained manner.

IMDb

It is a powerful, yet exquisitely subtle emotional drama, something to be compared with Ophüls, or Mizoguchi, or with a Hollywood studio picture by Douglas Sirk or an early David Lean.

Guardian

Although its tone is more dreamy than steamy, Tian Zhuangzhuang’s film ”Springtime in a Small Town” seems to have oddly sprung from the same heated template that produced the early 1950’s dramas of William Inge and Tennessee Williams in which a strutting sexual superman barges into a neurasthenic environment and wreaks chaos.

The New York Times

Spring in a Small Town 小城之春 (1948) with English subtitles

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