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Snow in the Wind

The troubled marriage of two rural cinema projectionists plays out in visually arresting but dramatically padded Chinese drama "Snow in the Wind." Latest common-people epic from medico-turned-actor-director Yang Yazhou has enough mischievous distinction to garner attention on the fest circuit and in limited arthouse play.

The troubled marriage of two rural cinema projectionists plays out in visually arresting but dramatically padded Chinese drama “Snow in the Wind.” Latest common-people epic from medico-turned-actor-director Yang Yazhou has enough mischievous distinction to garner attention on the fest circuit and in limited arthouse play. Pic earned the Special Jury Grand Prize at the recently wrapped Montreal fest, with Ni taking home the actress honors, solidifying the helmer’s rep.

In the harshly beautiful northwest Chinese rock-strewn wilderness, affable and committed Film Wang (Liu Wei) brings old black-and-white movies to grateful villagers who stand in the freezing cold to watch them projected in primitive, impromptu ozoners.

Though popular with the ladies, Film marries and sires three daughters with simple and sturdy donkey herder Fish Zhang (Yang’s muse, popular Chinese TV host Ni Ping). Breadwinner’s broken leg presses his wife into service running the family business, and she imparts a love of movies to her three comically stern-looking children (pic’s best visual gag finds mother and daughters imitating a quartet of ballet dancers glimpsed in one of their films).

Leg mended, Film moves his family to a village down the Yellow River, where he is seduced by cafe owner Sister Hu (Miao Pu).

Pic’s affection for slow-paced rural life is consistent with Yang’s previous work, which includes 2003’s “Pretty Big Feet” and newer “Loach is a Fish Too.” Ni co-stars in both, and “Loach” was featured in the non-competitive world cinema thread of the Montreal fest. Oddly enough, there’s not a lot of actual vintage cinema in the pic, which uses the art form more as a metaphor for long-suffering Fish’s simple philosophy: “Film,” she maintains, “is a window on the world.” “Don’t cry,” counsels one of her children, “there will be good films.”

Tech credits contribute to a lively presentation, with Wang Dong’s inquisitive camera dipping and swooping around characters painted with magic-hour hues. Opening title card dedicates the work to the 2005 centennial of Chinese film. No transliterated Mandarin title appears either onscreen or in the Montreal fest catalog.

Snow in the Wind

China

  • Production: A Beijing Zhengji Yunteng Investment production. Produced by Li Xiaobing, Zhou Jingsheng. Directed by Yang Yazhou. Screenplay, Wang Liang.
  • Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Wang Dong; editor, Xu Wei, Ding Ruan; music, Lao Zi; art director, Huo Tingxiao; sound (Dolby Digital), Da Hua; assistant director, Yuan Jin. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (competing), Aug. 27, 2006. Running time: 105 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Ni Ping, Liu Wei, Miao Pu, Yan Lishu, Liu Yan, Li Yarong. (Mandarin dialogue)