Review: ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone’

A "Jules and Jim"-like tale of two men in love with the same woman, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" is at its best when it's least hip. First feature by songwriter/commercials director Gao Xiaosong has the full battery of expressionist props and colors, pretentious dialogue and musicvid-style cutting and songs, but it's the more natural moments that work. A curio for Sinophiles only.

A “Jules and Jim”-like tale of two men in love with the same woman, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” is at its best when it’s least hip. First feature by songwriter/commercials director Gao Xiaosong has the full battery of expressionist props and colors, pretentious dialogue and musicvid-style cutting and songs, but it’s the more natural moments that work. A curio for Sinophiles only.

First 40 minutes — most of which could be ditched — confusingly cut between young couple Gao Ju (Xia Yu) and Huanzi (Zhou Xun, from “Suzhou River”) marrying, splitting up, and then to the present when she’s a successful model. Real story, set earlier, then finally starts: how Huanzi was first spotted at college by Gao and his pal Zhang Yang (musician-singer Pu Shu), who ended up sharing her, with Zhang getting her weekdays and Gao only on Saturday. But it was Gao whom Huanzi went off with and married. Zhou, as always, is majorly cute, though it’s Xia — more recently seen as the cop in “Cala, My Dog” — who steals acting honors. Pic was made in 2000 but only released last year.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone

China

Production

A Xi'an Film Studio, DMVE Culture Development Co. production. (International sales: DMVE Culture, Beijing.) Produced by Yan Yiyun, Tang Wanping. Executive producer, Chen Ziqiu. Directed, written by Gao Xiaosong.

Crew

Camera (color), Yuan Xiaoman; editor, Zhan Haihong; music, Zhang Yadong, Gao; art director, Zhao Xiaoyu; costume designer, Meng Yarong. Reviewed on videocassette, London, May 3, 2003. (In Far East Film Festival, Udine, Italy.) Mandarin dialogue. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Zhou Xun, Xia Yu, Pu Shu, Tian Zhen, Shu Yaoxuan, Zhao Kaige, Li Ming, Ma Zhaogang.
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