Epic study of tragic life of Chinese author

Published Thu, Oct 16, 2014 · 09:50 PM

THE brief, tragic and eventful life of the Chinese poet and author Xiao Hong is examined in detail by director Ann Hui in The Golden Era, a three-hour film that dutifully records the minutiae of 1930s life among China's literary elite without delving too deeply into the mind of its main character - failing as a result to lift the veil on a complex, fascinating persona.

The movie's intentions are made clear from the opening scene, in which Xiao Hong (played with unaffected intensity by Tang Wei) speaks directly to the camera and matter-of-factly announces the dates of her birth and death. We learn right away that she doesn't make it past 31, and that her story is narrated by a dead person walking.

A cast of supporting characters - friends and acquaintances - is introduced in similar docu-style, each with his or her version of events. They tell of someone who drifts along with the historical currents while simultaneously struggling to survive in a society that shunned her at first, yet who managed to make a name for herself as a lyrical writer of childhood memories, hard truths and tortured lives.

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