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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2002)

116 min - Drama - 9 October 2002
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During the Cultural Revolution, two young men are sent to a remote mining village where they fall in love with the local tailor’s beautiful granddaughter and discover a suitcase full of forbidden Western novels.

Director:  Sijie Dai

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Storyline

During the Cultural Revolution, two young men are sent to a remote mining village where they fall in love with the local tailor’s beautiful granddaughter and discover a suitcase full of forbidden Western novels.


Collections: Sijie Dai

Genres: Drama

Details

Official Website: 
Country:   China France
Language:  普通话, French
Release Date:  9 October 2002

Box Office

Company Credits

Production Companies:  Les Films de la Suane, Le Film

Technical Specs

Runtime:  1 h 56 min

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: A Tale of Love, Literature, and Revolution

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is a semi-autobiographical novella written by Dai Sijie. Published in 2000 in French and in English in 2001, it explores the impact of the Chinese Cultural Revolution on the lives of the youth. Dai Sijie also directed a film adaptation released in 2002.

Plot Summary

Set during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the novel centers around two teenage boys, Luo and an unnamed narrator. Both sons of doctors and considered enemies of the state, they are sent for re-education in a remote mountain village. There, they meet the Little Seamstress, a beautiful local girl.

The story unfolds around their experiences in the village, the impact of Western literature on their lives, particularly the works of Honoré de Balzac, and their relationship with the Little Seamstress. The boys’ exposure to forbidden Western novels profoundly influences their worldview and that of the Little Seamstress, leading to a dramatic conclusion.

Characters

  • Narrator: A talented violinist, he recounts their experiences.
  • Luo: A gifted storyteller and the narrator’s best friend.
  • The Little Seamstress: A local beauty, she becomes the object of the boys’ affections.
  • The Village Headman: Leader of the village, who uses his power to manipulate the boys.
  • Four-Eyes: Son of a poet, he owns a collection of forbidden Western novels.
  • The Miller: A local elder who shares folk songs with the boys.
  • The Tailor: Father of the Little Seamstress and a popular figure in the village.
  • The Gynaecologist: Performs an illegal abortion for the Little Seamstress.

Major Themes

The novel delves into themes like the power of education and literature, friendship, lost innocence, and cultural superiority. It portrays the transformative power of storytelling and literature against the backdrop of political repression.

Style and Background

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is notable for its compact size and streamlined narrative. Set against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution, it reflects Dai Sijie’s own experiences of re-education. The novel uses a relaxed writing style, with characters often referred to by epithets rather than names.

Reception and Influence

The book was well-received for its warmth, humor, and emotional depth. It provides an insightful look into China’s “ten lost years,” blending the personal and the political. The novel was a bestseller in France and won several literary awards.

Adaptations

Dai Sijie directed a film adaptation in 2003, starring Zhou Xun, Liu Ye, and Chen Kun. The film adaptation slightly modifies character names and details while retaining the essence of the novel.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress stands as a poignant reflection on the power of literature and its ability to provide solace and escape during turbulent times. It remains a significant work for its vivid portrayal of a pivotal moment in Chinese history.

[Wikipedia]

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