If you can stomach the classic tragedy, a world of unmatched cinematographic beauty opens itself and provides one of the most stunningly beautiful action films ever released.
Xiaogang Feng's latest appears to be a manipulative dramatic romance (and it truly is), but the fact that the story is based on people Feng knew in real life at least gives him somewhat of an excuse. Not that it suddenly adds a ton of extra layers and dramatic weight, it's just the knowledge that the plot isn't completely tailored to be the biggest tearjerker possible.
After Simon's wife dies, he takes her ashes to visit all the places she held dearest. During his trip we see flashbacks of the couple. The way they met each other, where they built up their lives together (rural New Zealand is a beautiful place) and how tragedy cut down their time together short.
Feng goes a little overboard with the music and the cinematography is a little too cheesy, but the performances are nice, the direction is effective and even though the runtime's just a little excessive, it never gets dull. People who dislike romance shouldn't even attempt to come near this one, but otherwise it's not a bad film.
Trademark mix of comedy and drama that brought fame to Xiaogang Feng, not in the least because of how different it was from other Chinese films at that time. Not a very remarkable film otherwise, but good fun nonetheless, with decent performances, a funny script and solid ending. Feng rarely disappoints.
One of Xiaogang Feng's earliest films. Feng has been a crucial element in the rebranding of Chinese cinema. He was one of the first directors to move away from the countryside, introducing more uplifting urban stories and more contemporary characters. The Dream Factory is a good example of this evolution.
Four friends start a little company, where they help people act out their dreams. The four do a little intake of their client's wishes, after which they start writing scenarios and perform them together with the client. It's a job that won't make them rich, but as their company grows they learn a lot about the people they help out.
You Ge is no doubt the star of the film, but it's nice to see Feng himself in a supporting role. The performances are solid, the assignments are fun and the pacing is solid. It does get a little repetitive after a while and Feng's direction isn't that remarkable, but it's a decent film that serves as an important milestone for Chinese cinema.
Worthy but flawed
Early Xiaogang Feng that is surprisingly traditional. A Sigh a romantic drama featuring a lot of torn and broken characters. The love triangle is nothing new, neither is the execution. It's not bad, but I've come to expect more from Feng, plenty of others could've directed this film and the outcome would've been just the same.
A pretty disappointing film from Feng, which oddly mimics the kind of cinema he helped China to move away from some 20 years ago. Youth reminded me of a film Yimou Zhang could have made during the 90s, only without the natural grace and visual splendor that made Zhang's films stand out.
Youth follows Xiaoping, a young country bumpkin joining a military dance troupe in the hope of finding some respect and appreciation. It doesn't take long before the bullying starts though and when the war erupts she is sent to a frontline hospital to tend to the wounded soldiers. Unfazed, she accepts her destiny and becomes an overnight hero.
Visually I expected more from Feng. The film doesn't look bad, but there are few memorable moments, even though it's clear the budget wasn't lacking. Actors do a decent job, but there are no stand-out performances. It's the score that is by far the weakest element though. It's loud and saccharine, leaving a bitter aftertaste. While not terrible, Youth simple isn't good enough for a director like Feng.