Daily Projections, 6-9-2019: Spring In A Small Town (1948)

Title: Spring In A Small Town
Director: Fei Mu
Country of Origin: China
Year: 1948
Screening format: DVD
Setting: home
First viewing? yes

Considered by many to be the masterpiece of the first great era of Chinese filmmaking, if not the greatest Chinese film of all time. A young wife trapped in a passionless marriage (I won’t say loveless, because I believe there is some love there) with an ailing husband becomes reacquainted with a long lost love who shows up on her doorstep one day after 10 years away because he also happens to be very close friends with her husband. She, of course, is forced to choose between her family and the one who got away. From the plot description alone, it sounds like a Satyajit Ray film (or at least a Tagore story). Some sensitive portrayals here, especially by Yu Shi and Wei Wei as the husband and wife, respectively. Spring In A Small Town often feels like it owes a great deal to the self-contained family dramas of Ozu and to Italian neorealism. Indeed, it is well situated within the general ethos of post-War drama. Though, at other times, certain editorial choices (cuts and transitions within an unchanging wide shot) seem to denote the passage of time and almost evoke the spirit of French New Wave a full decade ahead of Truffaut and Godard, even if they were, in fact, necessary quirks rather than stylistic choices. Lovely low-light scenes produce some beautifully shaded and shadowed images, particularly in the last half hour.

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Introducing “Daily Projections”

For years, filmmaker and critic Peter Bogdanovich kept files of notes on every film he saw. As he got older and viewed the same films again and again, he would add to his notes, documenting both his evolving opinions and his growth as a critic. Ever since I read a few of these cards which he shared over at IndieWire a few years ago, I have wondered if I had the discipline to do the same.

For the last few days I have been recording my initial impressions of every movie I’ve watched on a template measuring 4″x 6″. So far, I am really liking the experience. I have found that the limited space forces me to get to the point and not get bogged down in minutiae while still allowing room to record interesting observations that may be worth exploring more in depth in the future. And the knowledge that I will be writing something about everything has made me a more engaged viewer.

Over all, I like the way it has made me think about the movies I am watching and I intend to keep it up for as long as I can. And, in order to hold myself accountable, I am going to share them here as well. Which is why I am introducing “Daily Projections” (it’s a working title). I still consider in-depth essays about onscreen theology (or as I prefer to call it: “Jesus at the movies”) to be the main purpose of this site, but those take a long time and I watch a lot of other movies (at least 300 every year). I’ve got to keep my skills sharp as I take those deeper dives.

Because of the way WordPress is set up, these Daily Projection posts will appear within the main feed on the home page, but the individual posts will also be anthologized (probably by date) under the “Daily Projections” tab at the top of the page (or in the drop down menu on mobile).