Review: ‘Sunrise, Sunset’

From the opening shots of a band of smiling singers wending its tuneful way through fields of sunflowers, it is clear that Teng Wenji's depiction of changing society is no "Platform." "Sunrise, Sunset" boasts enough picture-postcard lensing, attractive thesps and short, well-integrated musical interludes to create a fairly watchable retro excursion. "Sunrise," however, is unlikely to set in the West.

From the opening shots of a band of smiling singers wending its tuneful way through fields of sunflowers, it is clear that Teng Wenji’s depiction of changing society as symbolized by the fate of a group of troubadours is no “Platform.” Defiantly parading its hokiness as “tradition,” as specifically opposed to the raucous incivility of “modern” tastes, “Sunrise, Sunset” boasts enough picture-postcard lensing, attractive thesps and short, well-integrated musical interludes to create a fairly watchable, if eminently forgettable, retro excursion into pop Chinese folk art. “Sunrise,” however, is unlikely to set in the West.

A handsome young man (Shao Bing) and a cute tyke take refuge from the modernization inexorably turning their farmland into oil fields — they join an ensemble of singers in black glasses, learning the ancient minstrel craft just as it is disappearing. Still favorites with villagers, the musicians, who mix traditional ballads with new compositions and improvised, round-robin riffs, find that paying customers demand more ribald entertainment. Meanwhile, a romance between the new arrival and group’s popular female star (Sun Yifei) generates tensions with revered maestro “Big Brother” (Wei Zi). Pic ends mid-plot, the denouement deferred to the sequel.

Sunrise, Sunset

China

Production

A Xi'an Movie Group, China Film Group, Xi'an Film Studio Corp., Yuan Shen Prod., China Movie Channel production. Produced by Han Sanping, Wang Zhanliang, Lu Hongshi. Executive producers, Yan Yiyun, Yang Buting, Tam Xiaoming. Directed by Teng Wenji. Screenplay, Wang Liang, Teng.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Zhi Lei; editor, Teng Yun; music, Chang Yuhong, Chang Xineei. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (competing), Sept. 1, 2005. Mandarin dialogue. Running time: 107 MIN.

With

Wei Zi, Sun Yifei, Shao Bing.
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