Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Bettina Cirone

Based on the international best seller Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is set in the early 1970's during the later stages of China's Cultural Revolution as two city-bred teenage best friends, Luo and Ma, are sent to a mountainous region for Maoist re-education. Kind of like the Allegheny’s here. They are sons of revolutionary intellectuals and are required to perform arduous manual labor along with locals while under supervision village headman. Among their funny diversions, they save Ma's violin from destruction by claiming a Mozart leader is actually a celebration of Chairman Mao.  They invent stories based on the real stodgy plots to keep villagers entranced. Both boys at 19 fall in love with the daughter of the most renowned tailor in the region.  They don't know her name and she won't reveal it but she captivates them with her innocence and youthful loveliness. They steal, at her beckoning, a hidden suitcase filled with banned books by Western classical writer -- mostly French.  They read these works to the Little Seamstress for days on end in a secret cave where they have hidden the books.  She falls in love with the book's author, Balzac and they fall in love with her.  Luo and she become lovers, but she doesn't tell him she is pregnant when he is called home to his ailing father.  She fishes a frog from a pond to heal his father faster but gets bitten by a rattlesnake.  One of the boys sucks the venom successfully out of her finger and she notes that he is enjoying the process with sensual pleasure.  Inspired by the lure of Balzac, the Little Seamstress runs away from her mountain village for city life, leaving the boys brokenhearted with only their memories of her.  Twenty years later, they return looking for her but they are told she is somewhere in Hong Kong. I was totally captivated by every precious and unpredictable moment of this enchanting little film, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.  A serenely told and ultimately believable story performed exquisitely by the entire cast and brought lovingly to the screen by Suie Dai. For sure, an academy award candidate.

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