The impressive directorial debut of actress Joan Chen, who’s appeared in everything from Twin Peaks to The Last Emperor to Heaven and Earth. Adapted from the novella “Tian Yu” by Yan Geling, who collaborated with Chen on the screenplay, and filmed in Tibet, this feature has enraged mainland Chinese government officials–not only because it was shot without an official permit but apparently also because its tragic plot gives such a dark portrait of the effects of the Cultural Revolution. The young title heroine, who like many others in her generation travels from a city to a remote part of China, winds up working with a horse trainer in Tibet, a solitary and stoic figure whose quiet love for her is the main focus of the story. Desperate after a spell to return to her native Chengdu, Xiu Xiu winds up sleeping with a series of men who she believes have influence on such state decisions. Exquisitely acted, and shot by Zhang Yimou cinematographer Lu Yue–an impressive director in his own right–with a sharp feeling for landscape, this is a powerful piece of filmmaking. Village. –Jonathan Rosenbaum
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.