|In the Heat of the Sun
As my contribution to the end-of-decade "make a list" phenomenon, the following brief review of what I consider the be the best, least-known (in the West) Chinese language film of the 90s appeared in the "Best films of the 90s" issue of Cinemascope, vol. 2(Winter, 1999), along with my list of the 10 best Chinese films of the 90s.
"Change has wiped out my memories. I can't tell what's imagined from what's real" (from the prologue to In the Heat of the Sun). One central obsession, time, preoccupies all of the greatest Chinese language films of the '90s. Each of these films in some way makes the most radical demands on our experience of temporality, exposes the ideological underpinnings of our preconceptions about time, and insists on a vision of breathtaking, liberating alternatives.
The film's politics, though, are implied -- mere shadows on its margins. Jiang's camera, wandering at will through space, and tracking and backtracking through time, embodies an absolute freedom just out of reach of the film's principals. Ostensibly a nostalgia film about the Cultural Revolution's "good old days", this film is much more: a self-consciously post-modern, post-"fifth generation" dismantling of the modern Chinese realist film; an ironic, romance-drenched interrogation of the possibility of eros and passion in a totalitarian era; and a meditation on the traps and opportunities afforded by creative mis-remembering.
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