Bless Their Hearts
Scholars and Writers For Trump

52 Movies: Week 39 - Coming Home


When I read Zhang Yimou's name, the first thing I think about is pageantry and majesty; Flying Daggers, and Red Lanterns; beautiful balletic battles and rich fabric; and color, color, color--and also poisonous family relationships, best exemplified in Curse of the Golden Flower.

And then there are Zhang's other movies: parochial, quiet, and filled with loving relationships. Coming Home is one of these. It is a small, gray movie, mostly shot in one neighborhood, and revolving around a family of three It is, however, very beautiful. While it lacks the physical beauty of the movies above, it has a deep interior beauty.

The movie begins in the daughter, Dan Dan's, ballet school where she is trying out for the lead role in the ballet, Red Detachment of Women. She and her mother, Feng Wanyu, a teacher, are called to the school office where they hear that Yu's husband, Lu Yanshi, has escaped from the labor camp where he has been imprisoned for 10 years for crimes against the Cultural Revolution. Yu and Dan Dan are asked it they have seen him, and warned that they must turn him in if they do. Dan Dan, who was only three when her father left, is all compliance, but Yu is not so sure. Why, she wonders, did he escape? Had they done something to him to make him decide he had to leave?

It seems that the reason that he left the camp was that he wanted so badly to see his wife and daughter. He goes to the house and hides in the attic. He has an encounter with his daughter on the stairs, and she tells him that she doesn't want to know him and that he must leave.

Lu is not willing to leave, though, until he sees Yu. He knocks on the door, and Yu, who has heard noises in the attic and knows who it must be, locks the door against him. Then they both stand on their own sides of the door, hands on the doorknob, locked in an intense stillness that is reminiscent of the Song of Solomon.

My lover put his hand in through the opening:
my innermost being trembled because of him.
I rose to open for my lover,
my hands dripping myrrh:
upon the handles of the lock.
I opened for my lover--
but my lover had turned and gone!

But Lu has slipped a note under the door, asking Yu to meet him at the boat dock the next morning. Yu arrives for the meeting and when she finally sees Lu waving to her from a different level, she finds that the police, having been informed by Dan Dan, are there waiting for him, and in a very painful scene the couple is once again separated.

Three years later, the Cultural Revolution ends and Lu comes home. He is met by Dan Dan who is no longer dancing, or living with her mother. Puzzled as to why this is so, and why Yu did not come to meet him, he goes to the house where he finds little notes all over the room reminding Yu of things she needs to do. Sadly, one of the notes reads, “Don't lock the door.” When she comes in, she does not recognize him. In fact, she believes him to be an enemy and insists that he leave. He does so and the chairwoman of the Communist Party in the neighborhood (a very sympathetic neighbor) arranges for him to live in a small room across the street.

Yu is suffering from a selective form of amnesia, and the doctor suggests to Lu that experiencing things that they used to do together might jog her memory. Lu tries everything that he can think of. When the letter that Lu wrote when he left camp saying that he will be home on the 5th arrives belatedly, Wu is beside herself waiting for the day of his arrival. Lu arranges to take her to the dock, and walks down the plank with the arriving passengers, but she looks right past him, and never sees him.

This search for Lu at the docks repeats itself month after month on the 5th and Lu's patience and persistence seem unending. He sits in his room across the street, and watches her lit window, awaiting any opportunity to awaken her memory. Even in his failure to make his wife recognize him, he finds ways to bring the family together in unusual ways, even bringing about a reconciliation between mother and daughter. As he steadfastly watches over his wife and daughter, we see him grow in a sacrificial love in which Lu's focus gradually changes from achieving the relationship he wants to serving those he loves.

Gong Li, who excellently portrays Feng Wanyu in the film, has been in quite a few Zhang Yimou movies including her role as the empress in Curse of the Golden Flower. The more I think about Coming Home and Curse of the Golden Flower in juxtaposition to each other, the more I see that they are opposite to each other in almost every way. The characters in Curse... live in a world of wealth, beauty, power, and hatred. Those in Coming Home live lives that are more-or-less controlled by the Communist Party. Everything is drab and shabby, but filled with love. It's interesting to me that Zhang Yimou has chosen to make films in two such disparate genres.

Today, I watched another Zhang Yimou film, The Flowers of War starring Christian Bale and thought it was pretty much all right. I can't remember that I've ever had such a tepid reaction to a Zhang movie before. Although all the characters in the movie except Bale were either Chinese or Japanese, it had a very American tone, and was mostly in English. His next movie, which will be released in the U.S. Next year, The Great Wall, stars Matt Damon along with Willem Dafoe and and an actor I don't know, Pedro Pascal, from Game of Thrones. It will be entirely in English. I'm not too sure I'm happy about the direction Zhang's career seems to be taking, but it might be better than I think.

Red Detachment of Women, by the way, is ballet that seems to be as famous in China as Swan Lake or The Nutcracker is here. It was the ballet that was performed for Nixon when he visited China.


—Janet Cupo has been commenting on this blog for about as long as it's existed, and has her own excellent blog at The Three Prayers.


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Another one to add to the list! Thanks, Janet.

You're welcome. Thanks to you.


Went to see the new Godzilla movie last night and they ran a trailer for the The Great Wall. Looks to be a fantasy/action film on an epic scale -- here's hoping it has both the panache and the beauty of the typical Zhang Yimou film!

Watched 'Coming Home' last night -- very good indeed. The ending is perhaps a little bit more low-key than I would have liked, but in context very fitting. The acting is excellent throughout.

I'm glad you liked it.


Zhang Yimou's Shadow has finally made it to the States. Check your local theaters. Here in Pittsburgh it's only playing on two screens, neither of which is anywhere near me, but I plan to see it over the weekend nevertheless.

I'll be surprised if it plays here at all but I'll keep an eye out. It would be fun to see a movie in a theater. I think my last one was Blade Runner 2049.

Yeah, I don't go much myself anymore unless I think it's something on which the big screen would make a real difference.

I never saw this one. I'd like to.

It doesn't seem to be on Memohis at all.


Not here, either. Not surprising.

Got to see 'Shadow' on Sunday afternoon and liked it so much I went back again last night.
It's darker both visually and thematically than Yimou's previous movies of this type. It's filmed in color, but most of the colors are actually black and white, and the various shades of gray in between. The only other colors are the yellow of flame and candlelight, the flesh tones of the actors, and the red of blood. Still, the austere beauty he gets out of all these grays is pretty amazing, and it matches the dark/bright of the yin-yang motif that appears throughout the film.

Thematically, the film has to do with court intrigue and crosses and double-crosses (while I was watching it Macbeth kept coming to mind), and the whole thing gets quite intense (and bloody) near the end. As usual with Yimou's films the visuals in the duels and battle scenes are fantastic and even breathtaking at times. What makes this one different than his previous ones is the bloodiness of the violence. While it doesn't approach the Tarantino or Scorcese level, it's still fairly graphic, albeit very stylishly done.

All in all, this is one of the more satisfying film experiences I've had in quite a while. See it on the big screen if you can!

Which unfortunately is not very likely for me.

I emailed our theater to see if it was coming here, and they said unfortunately the distributor had not contacted them about showing the film. All the movie theaters in Memphis belong to one company. It is rather surprising since one of the theaters has foreign and indie films.

So boo.


Yeah, boo.

I checked out most of the theaters in a 30-mile or so radius here and the lists of movies showing at each were extremely similar, like 8 or 9 out of 10 the same.

There is one independent here but they have a roster extending into July and Shadow is not on it. Their fare tends to be sort of the slightly less populist mainstream. For instance, Rocketman (the Elton John bio) for most of the next few weeks. Can't believe that many people want to see it, especially as it's also showing at some of the bigger places.

But I think I will definitely try to go see this one:

Imagine there's no Beatles.


It's not easy.

It ain't

Whether or not you try.

"But I think I will definitely try to go see this one"

Ha! That looks like it could be lots of fun.

When I saw 'Shadow' on Sunday I was excited to see that the same cineplex was running 'Once Upon a Time in the West' last night as part of their classics series. Almost didn't go, because we had a huge rainstorm that was causing flash flooding in various places, but I allowed extra time just in case. Good thing I did, as traffic was bad, but it was worth it. Seeing that on a big screen in a theater with a great sound system was a real treat.

When I saw the trailer for "Yesterday" I thought it looked fantastic. Wonderful premise for a comedy. But the reviews were poor. I'm on the fence.

Surely it would still at least have enough good moments to be moderately enjoyable. Unless they were all in the trailer.

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