To Live (film)

To Live (film)

Infobox Film | name = To Live

caption = "To Live" DVD cover
director = Zhang Yimou
producer = Fu-Sheng Chiu
Funhong Kow
Christophe Tseng
writer = Yu Hua (novel)
Lu Wei
starring = Ge You
Gong Li
music = Zhao Jiping
cinematography = Lü Yue
editing = Du Yuan
distributor =
released = Cannes:
May 18, 1994
United Kingdom:
October 14, 1994
United States:
November 18, 1994
runtime = 125 min.
language = Mandarin
budget =
imdb_id = 0110081
amg_id = 1:134236

"To Live" (zh-cp|c=活着|p=huó zhe) is a Chinese film directed by Zhang Yimou in 1994, starring Ge You and Gong Li and produced by the Shanghai Film Studio and ERA International. It is based on the novel of the same name by Yu Hua. Having achieved international success with his previous films, "Ju Dou" and "Raise the Red Lantern", "To Live" came with high expectations. It is the first Chinese film that had its foreign distribution rights pre-sold. [cite web | url = | title = On the Set with Zhang Yimou | accessdate = 2007-05-10 |date= 1994-04-27| author =Klapwald, Thea |publisher = "The International Herald Tribune" ]

The film was banned in Mainland China by the Chinese State Administration of Radio, Film, and TelevisionFact|date=September 2007, due to its satirical portrayal of various policies and campaigns of the Communist government.

"To Live" was screened at the 1994 New York Film Festival before eventually receiving a limited release in the United States on November 18, 1994. [cite web|url= |title=FILM REVIEW; Zhang Yimou's 'To Live'| author=James, Caryn| publisher = "The New York Times"| accessdate=2008-05-20| date= 1994-11-18]


The story begins some time in the 1940s. Xu Fugui (Ge You) is a local rich man's son and compulsive gambler, who loses his family property to a man named Long'er. His behaviour also causes his long-suffering wife Jiazhen (Gong Li) to leave him with their daughter, Fengxia and their unborn son, Youqing.

After he loses his entire family fortune, Fugui eventually reunites with his wife and children, but is forced to start a shadow puppet troupe with a partner named Chunsheng to support his family. The Chinese Civil War is occuring at the time, and both Fugui and Chunsheng are forcibly enlisted into the Kuomintang forces during a performance. After a heavy battle, Fugui and Chunsheng are captured by the forces of the Communist Party of China, where they quickly become entertainers for the troops. Eventually Fugui is able to return home, and once there, finds out that Fengxia has become mute due to a fever.

After the CPC's victory, Fugui attends a local public trial where the new communist authority convicts Long'er of sabotaging the revolution. Long'er recognises Fugui, and tries to break free from the executioners, but he is brought away and shot. It turns out that Long'er did not want to donate any of his personal wealth to the "people's government" as the communists had hoped, and when they tried to pressure Long'er to do so in the name of "helping" him, they only enraged Long'er further and he decided to burn all of his property instead of giving it away. No one helped to extinguish the fire due to Long'er's bad reputation, and he quickly was designated a reactionary. When the village cadre mentioned to Fugui that the fire lasted three days and carelessly said that "because the wood used in your family's mansion was very good wood", Fugui was quick to proclaim his innocence by telling the village chief "No! It was not the wood of my family, it was the wood of the counter-revolutionary."

The story moves forward a decade into the future, to the prime of the Great Leap Forward. The local town chief enlists Fugui and Jiazhen to donate all scrap iron in their possession to the national drive to produce steel and make weaponry for invading Taiwan. As an entertainer, Fugui performs for the entire town, which has been devoted entirely over to producing steel. Later, the district head, who turns out to be Chunsheng, inadvertently crushes and kills Youqing. At the gravesite of the boy, his mother leaves for him a lunchbox of 20 stale dumplings, which were intended as his lunch for school that day, plus 20 newly made dumplings. Chunsheng arrives at the grave, but his attempts to apologise and compensate the family are rebuffed.

The story moves forward again another decade, to the Cultural Revolution. The village chief advises Fugui's family to burn their shadow puppet drama props, which have been deemed as counter-revolutionary as they are traditional cultural elements. Fengxia is now grown up. Her family arranges for her to meet Wan Erxi, a local leader of the Red Guards. They fall in love and marry.

It is then revealed that Chunsheng, the district chief, has been branded a reactionary. He arrives late at night to inform Fugui and Jiazhen that his wife has committed suicide and he plans to do so also. Chunsheng wanted to give all of his money to Fugui's family as a form of his final apology and wished that they accept the money before his death. Jiazhen, who up to that point refused to talk to Chunsheng, tells him to keep living, because "you still owe us a life!"

During Fengxia's childbirth, her parents and husband accompany her to the county hospital, where they find out that nurses are in charge as all doctors have been sent to do hard labor for being "reactionary academic authorities". The nurses tell the family that both the child and mother will be fine, but the family is skeptical, and manages to retrieve a doctor from confinement to oversee the birth. As the doctor has not eaten for several days, Fugui purchases seven steamed buns (mantou) for him and the family decides to name the son Mantou. However, Fengxia begins to hemorrhage, and the nurses panic, admitting that they do not know what to do. The family and nurses seek the advice of the doctor, but find that he has overeaten and is semiconscious. The family is helpless, and Fengxia dies from hypovolemia.

The movie ends several years later, with the family now consisting of Fugui, Jiazhen, their son-in-law Erxi, and grandson Mantou. The family visits the graves of Youqing and Fengxia, where Jiazhen, as per tradition, leaves dumplings for her son. Erxi buys a box full of young chicks for his son, which they decide to keep in the chest formerly used for the shadow puppet props. The family then sits down to eat, and the film ends.

Awards and nominations

* Cannes Film Festival, 1994
** Grand Jury Prize — Tied with "Burnt by the Sun"
** Prize of the Ecumenical Jury — Tied with "Burnt by the Sun"
** Best ActorGe You
** Palme d'Or (nominated)
* BAFTA Awards, 1995
** Best Film Not in the English Language
* Golden Globe Awards, 1995
** Best Foreign Language Film (nominated)
* Chlotrudis Awards, 1995
** Best Actress — Gong Li (nominated)


ee also

* List of Chinese films
* Banned films, China
* Censorship in the People's Republic of China

External links

*imdb title|id=0110081|title=To Live
*amg title|id=1:134236|title=To Live
*rotten-tomatoes|id=To_Live|title=To Live
* [ "To Live"] at the Chinese Movie Database
* Source:Pinyin translated with [ CozyChinese.COM]

###@@@KEY@@@###succession box
title=BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language
before="Farewell My Concubine"
after="Il Postino"
succession box
title=Grand Prix du Jury, Cannes
tied with "Burnt by the Sun"
before="Faraway, So Close!"
after="Ulysses' Gaze"
(award renamed Grand Prix)

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