Review: ‘The Life And Times Of Wu Zhongxian’

The legacy of political activist Wu Zhongxian is fondly recalled by his friend and fellow revolutionary, Mok Chiu-Yu, in director Evans Chan's mostly straightforward filming of Mok's acclaimed 1997 stage play. Essentially a small-scale, one-man show, in which Mok gives a bravura performance as both himself and Wu, pic nonetheless manages to convey a sweeping sense of Chinese countercultural activity throughout the decades, and should become a well-traveled fest item, of highest interest to Asiaphiles and theater buffs.

The legacy of political activist Wu Zhongxian is fondly recalled by his friend and fellow revolutionary, Mok Chiu-Yu, in director Evans Chan’s mostly straightforward filming of Mok’s acclaimed 1997 stage play. Essentially a small-scale, one-man show, in which Mok gives a bravura performance as both himself and Wu, pic nonetheless manages to convey a sweeping sense of Chinese countercultural activity throughout the decades, and should become a well-traveled fest item, of highest interest to Asiaphiles and theater buffs.

Wu fought, at various times, against capitalism, colonialism and misinterpreted Marxism, always with an eye toward what he believed was in China’s best interest. Rarely departing from a single set, Chan and Mok use inventive monologues to trace their subject’s varied life, from his earliest days as a campus radical to his untimely death from cancer, in 1994. Wu’s stints as magazine editor, prisoner and spy are also covered, along with the internal conflicts that saw the implosion of (or Wu’s expulsion from) nearly every organization of which he was a member; the cumulative effect is a profound sense of the perils by which ordinary people attempt to change the system.

The Life And Times Of Wu Zhongxian

Hong Kong

Production

An Asian People's Theater Festival Society presentation. (International sales: Hong Kong Arts Center, Wanchai.) Executive producer, Mok Chiu-Yu. Co-producer, Willy Tsao. Directed by Evans Chan. Screenplay, Mok Chiu-Yu, Chan, based on a play by Mok.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), O Sing-Pui; editor, Chan; music, John Huie; production designer, Gill Wong; costume designers, William Fung, Wong. Reviewed on videocassette at Vancouver Film Festival (Dragons & Tigers), Oct. 8, 2003. Running time: 70 MIN.

With

Mok Chiu-Yu, Lindzay Chan
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