Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2005) To the question of "How're ya gonna keep her down on the farm after she's read Cousin Bette?" the answer in Balzac and the Little… 2005-07-29 Unrated PT111M Foreign Language Chen Kun Zhou Xun Liu Ye Empire Pictures
Movie Review

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2005)

MPAA Rating: Unrated
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress | ZHON LIKES BALZAC The flower of forbidden love (of great literature) blossoms
ZHON LIKES BALZAC The flower of forbidden love (of great literature) blossoms
EW's GRADE
B

Details Limited Release: Jul 29, 2005; Rated: Unrated; Length: 111 Minutes; Genre: Foreign Language; With: Chen Kun, Zhou Xun and Liu Ye; Distributor: Empire Pictures

To the question of ''How're ya gonna keep her down on the farm after she's read Cousin Bette?'' the answer in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is, ya can't. Adapting his own nostalgic semiautobiographical novel about reeducation during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, filmmaker Dai Sijie has created a dreamy memory of hardship — part familiar Chinese parable, part familiar French romance — in which love of the radiantly beautiful, remote Chinese landscape outlasts bitterness at the Mao era's blinkered commitment to intellectual ignorance.

The three principals in the film (made in 2002 and banned in China) are radiantly beautiful too, which doesn't hurt. Sent for ''rehabilitation'' to a remote mining village in 1971, as penance for their educated upbringing, Luo (Chen Kun) and Ma (Liu Ye) court the tailor's granddaughter of the title (Zhou Xun) by reading to her from a stolen cache of forbidden classic literature. Enlightenment is good, Dai acknowledges. But the movie's more provocative assertion is the notion that ignorance was also a kind of bliss.

Originally posted Aug 17, 2005 Published in issue #836 Aug 26, 2005 Order article reprints