A didactic tale of international understanding amidst the dying embers of WWII, “Purple Sunset” throws together a Chinese, a Russian and a Japanese as they feud and bond in the Manchurian taiga. Succulently shot in widescreen but scuppered by the nationalism it purports to abhor, writer-director-d.p. Feng Xiaoning’s final leg of his East-meets-West trilogy is destined for Chinese film weeks only. Quality-wise, pic falls between “Red River Valley” (1995) and “Lover’s Grief Over the Yellow River” (1999).
In August ’45, Soviet troops invade northeast China to evict the Japanese and save peasant Yang (Fu Dalong) from a firing squad. He and Nadya (Anna Dzenilalova), paired up in the chaos, stumble across a fleeing teenager, Yoko (Chie Mieta), who first leads them out of the vast forests and then tries to double-cross them. Though well played by the sturdy Dzenilalova, Nadya is basically a bystander to traditional hatreds being worked out between Yang and Yoko: Unsurprisingly, Yoko eventually confesses her debt to China and how much she’s learned from Yang’s humanity. Despite script’s bald nationalism, all three leads acquit themselves creditably, but it’s as a widescreen lenser that Feng shows the most smarts.