Ghosts of China's Maoist past haunt present in Venice film

Thu Sep 4, 2014 12:15pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - The Chinese film "Red Amnesia" shown in Venice is partly a ghost story that may or may not have a ghost, but its portrayal of how the Cultural Revolution left a trail of twisted lives that haunts China today is unambiguous and devastating.

The film by "Beijing Bicycle" director Wang Xiaoshuai is in competition for the Venice Film Festival's top Golden Lion prize to be awarded on Saturday.

"It's now been over 30 years since the economic reforms began being implemented in China," Wang said at a post-screening news conference on Thursday.

"Yet we have not been freed from the influences of the past and in our minds, we have not completely been able to move on."

The film, which has the Chinese title "Chuangru zhe", is the third in a trilogy by Wang that looks at the aftermath of the 1966-76 mass campaign launched by Mao Zedong to transform China into a militantly Communist society, which descended into violence, denunciations, purges and warfare.

It also examines how Chinese attitudes toward the elderly have changed, from a tradition of reverence to the difficulties the widow, Mrs Deng, played to perfection by veteran stage actress Lu Zhong, has dealing with her two sons, her daughter in law and even her own mother, who is in a nursing home.

One of the sons is gay and resents her showing up at the flat he shares with his lover. The other son's wife chafes at her mother-in-law's bossiness, which extends to insisting on making meatballs in other people's kitchens.

Whenever Deng goes to visit her own mother in the nursing home, the older woman refuses to eat anything she feeds her.   Continued...

Director Wang Xiaoshuai (R) poses with cast members Qin Hao (L) and Lu Zhong during the red carpet for the movie "Chuangru zhe" (Red amnesia) at the 71st Venice Film Festival September 4 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile