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The tailor s role in balzac and

  • Balzac and the little chinese seamstress study guide contains a biography of dai sijie despite his fairly modest origins as a tailor's son there;
  • Luo and the narrator head off to see Four-Eyes, whose...

Share via Email Can a chicken be described as "bourgeois"? That's a question - the answer to which turns out to be the tailor s role in balzac and - thrown up during this engaging Chinese-French co-production: Reactionary urban types were packed off to the countryside there, to refresh their ideological purity at the wellspring of peasant revolution. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress shows China's ambivalent attitude to both its past and present, and leniently - maybe a little too leniently - remembers the Cultural revolution as no worse than national service: It is here that two teenage boys, Luo Kun Chen and Ma Ye Liu receive a sentimental education of sorts at the hands of a young woman from a neighbouring village.

She is the beautiful granddaughter of the local tailor, known as Little Seamstress - played by Zhou Xun, seen in British cinemas three years ago as the enigmatic Meimei in Ye Lou's Hitchcockian drama Suzhou River.

The two boys have very questionable bourgeois habits which have to be knocked out of them. One is a violinist; his instrument is passed scowlingly around like an unexploded bomb at the first village meeting at which the actual and potential depravity of our two counter-revolutionary trainees is assessed.

At first, the party chief declares that it is a toy, and is to be thrown on to the fire. No, says someone else - it is for making music. The violinist, Ma, plays the opening bars of a Mozart sonata, and the unaccustomed cadences and harmonies of classical western melody are like strange birdsong.

The tailor s role in balzac and

The party chief allows it - only on the understanding that there is some communist-dogma justification for this frippery. So the boys declare that the piece is called "Mozart is thinking of Chairman Mao". Later the same chief will hear an air from Swan Lake, and only agrees to like it once he hears that it was "written for Lenin". Luo is the son of a dentist, and bears a terrible stigma. His father once filled one of Chiang Kai-Shek's molars.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

But even this taint of bourgeois expertise is reversed when the chief himself suffers from the toothache and the boy has to fix the tooth using a terrifying hand-cranked drill - while the patient is offered homespun anaesthesia in the form of something to smoke. The boys go to see them and come back to tell the stories all over again to the villagers who couldn't get in to see them. But then they discover something even more important.

A bespectacled camp-member called Four-Eyes - glasses of course being the most awful sign of the decadent intellectual - has a stash of forbidden literature: The boys read Balzac aloud to Little Seamstress, and even tell the story of Old Goriot to the villagers, trying to pass it off as a movie. The richness of western literature and music floods Little Seamstress's mind with a sense of what she is missing in this petty and backward world of "re-education" - and she resolves to escape.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

With a mood not far from Cinema Paradiso, the movie is full of humanity and pathos, and likeable performances from the three principals. It is based on director Dai Sijie's own bestselling autobiographical novel; clearly this is the way he remembers the Maoist camp he attended - or at any rate the way he remembers it for the purposes of fiction and cinema. There is no serious brutality here, no sense of a whole generation tyrannised in the service of grotesque ideological cruelty, which is how other Chinese writers and film-makers remember the period.

Set against this sentimentality is the power with which the movie catapults us into Luo and Ma's lives 30 years later in modern China and France - it could as well be a hundred or a thousand years later, their camp life was so medieval. Luo is a professor of dentistry: Ma is a violinist in a quartet.

  • A vast majority of the characters in the narrative have " epithets rather than names", [6] adding to the relaxed writing style of the novel;
  • Plot summary[ edit ] The novel, written by Dai Sijie, is about two teenage boys during the Chinese Cultural Revolution , Luo, described as having "a genius for storytelling", [1] and the unnamed narrator, "a fine musician";
  • Later, in 1974, Luo and Ma both return to the city as well;
  • They've got away from the brutish, philistine communist past - but their present is unsatisfactory too;
  • The village headman, who has just had an unsuccessful dental surgery, threatens to arrest Luo and the narrator for harboring forbidden ideas from The Count of Monte Cristo if they don't agree to find a solution to the headman's dental problems;
  • The narrator trembles as he approaches the headman, but the headman...

Their lives are happy enough, but the western culture they have embraced looks banal. The two men meet again in early middle age, just as they hear that the valley in which they spent their "Maoist" years is to be obliterated by flooding for a new electrification dam: They've got away from the brutish, philistine communist past - but their present is unsatisfactory too.

  1. After staying up all night reading the book, Luo gives the book to the narrator and leaves the village in order to tell the story to the Little Seamstress. The story begins to influence the clothes the tailor makes during the day, and the narrator explains that the five-pointed anchor motif was exceptionally...
  2. Dai himself was re-educated , and "spent the years between 1971 and 1974 in the mountains of Sichuan Province ". There is no serious brutality here, no sense of a whole generation tyrannised in the service of grotesque ideological cruelty, which is how other Chinese writers and film-makers remember the period.
  3. Later, in 1974, Luo and Ma both return to the city as well. Though the tailor offers pleasantries to the headman, the headman ignores them and instructs the narrator to come...
  4. Although he is succeeding in re-education, he is also hiding a secret set of foreign novels that are forbidden by Chinese law.

Both men yearn to see again the woman they both loved, and whom they drove away with their music and books. Here is a movie with a seductive narrative flow and humane, sympathetic performances - a gentle fairy tale, partly, but only partly, taken from real life.