Melissa Pierson
November 15, 1991 AT 05:00 AM EST

Iron & Silk

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG
runtime
92 minutes
performer
Mark Salzman, Vivian Wu
director
Shirley Sun
distributor
Artisan Home Entertainment
author
Mark Salzman
genre
Comedy, Drama

We gave it a C

Two unusual tapes offer an introductory glimpse of Chinese culture through Western and native eyes. With Iron & Silk, the introduction is basic indeed — about first-grade level. Sinophile Mark Salzman not only wrote a book about his postgrad years teaching English in China, he plays himself in the movie version as well. Despite the chutzpah, Iron is little more than a travel diary hung on a bony armature of predictable narratives (Karate Kid-like tutelage by a master of martial arts, forbidden friendship with a young Chinese woman). Far richer is China seen through the Chinese lens of Ju Dou. This tale of doomed love unfurls with almost morbid inexorability as a series of beautiful, kinetic still lifes. A fabric-dyeing mill in the 1920s is the setting for Ju Dou’s (Gong Li) humiliation by an abusive husband and her consuming passion for his adopted nephew. The movie’s stately sense of the dramatic frames a window through which a distant scene comes vibrantly close to Western view. Iron & Silk: C Ju Dou: B+

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