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To Live (Widescreen Subtitled Edition) (Bilingual) [Import]

You Ge , Li Gong , Yimou Zhang    Unrated   DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 59.95
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One of the best films of 1994, To Live is a bold, energetic masterpiece from Zhang Yimou, the foremost director from China's influential "fifth generation" of filmmakers. Continuing his brilliant collaboration with China's best-known actress Gong Li (their previous films include Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern), Zhang weaves an ambitious tapestry of personal and political events, following the struggles of an impoverished husband and wife (Ge You, Gong Li) from their heyday in the 1940s to the hardships that accompanied the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. They raise two children amidst a Communist regime, surviving numerous setbacks and yet managing, somehow, to live. Both intimate and epic, Zhang's film encompasses the simplest and most profound realities of Chinese life during this controversial period, and for their honesty, Zhang and Gong Li faced a two-year ban on future collaborations. To Live is a testament to their art, transcending politics to celebrate the tenacity of ordinary people in the wake of turbulent history. --Jeff Shannon

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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fate Oct. 26 2003
The movie To Live insightfully displays human nature. By experiencing life in China from the 1940s through the Cultural Revolution, one can get a visceral sense of the historical context of the era as well as learn a bit about how life's path is determined by a mixture of one's own decisions and by a bit of chance. These, I feel are the film's most endearing qualities.
There are a series of life changing events that forms the troughs and crests of the protagonist's life. Each event shows the interplay of both chance and free-will. These events are: the roll of dice at the beginning of the movie, taking the box of puppets to make a living, the forcing of the main character's son to go and help the cadre, and the fixed marriage of the main character's daughter. I'll analyze these one at a time.
The roll of dice at the beginning of the movie has several results. The immediate effect is that Feng Gui (the story's protagonist) loses his family home and his family, both his nuclear and extended families. However, while this at first seems as though an unfortunate circumstance, the primary effect is that Feng Gui gives up gambling and recovers his relationship with his family. In fact, later in the story it becomes apparent that if he had not lost the farm, he would have been declared an evil landlord and sentenced to death. This plainly shows how things that may first appear to be unlucky are in fact lucky. There is also a subtle display of luck vs. free-will in that while luck determined that he lost at gambling, Feng Gui ultimately chose, of his own volition, to go on playing when his wife (the voice of reason) begged him to stop.
The second event, Feng Gui's taking the box of puppets to eke out a living, also shows how fate can play an important role in one's survival.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning; poignant April 15 2004
Format:VHS Tape
I have shown this film to my English students after having read Dai Sijie's book, BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS, because of the portrayal of communism and the effects of the Chinese "cultural revolution". While it at first appears to be loaded with communist propoganda, it becomes apparent by the end of the film that it is an outspoken criticism of Mao and this harsh period of recent Chinese history.
Aside from the political overtones, this is also a masterful study of overcoming loss and adversity that transcends cultural or political boundaries. While my students almost invariably complain about the subtitles at the beginning of the showing, by the end, they have been completely drawn in, and are laughing and crying on cue. If this isn't the true test of a great flick, I don't know what is.
A masterpiece, and one that everyone should see.
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3.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 Stars Feb. 23 2004
By "5u5hi"
This film was pretty interesting. I'm not sure that I would say moving or masterful, but interesting nevertheless. On the one end it seems somewhat of a propaganda film. On the other end, it clearly shows that the Chinese are able to look back with some criticism on the cultural revolution and other surrounding events. There was one disconnection though that seemed kind of obvious and awkward to me - in particular the father's transition from sorry gambler to family man and upstanding citizen. Of course, this may have to do with the theme of survival. Perhaps he had to change his ways in order to survive, and ultimately to live. But here I didn't think that there was a lot of flow in the film. Anyway, all that aside...the film was interesting and worthy of a recommendation.
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Given the subject, it would be easy for a director to get carried away and offer some monumental slant regarding the political repercussions of an obstinately socialist regime on a common man's life in China. No, not with Yamou Zhang. This is a simple, stirring tale that takes us through 3 generations of ordinary people in extraordinary times.
Whether it is some knowledge of the cultural revolution you crave, or a basic poignant movie, just watch it instead of reading these reviews. In my book, this ranks right next to Yume or Farewell My Concubine as epics from the orient. Little can be *said* about this movie that would not be much better *felt* firsthand.
6 out of 5 stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Characters - even if they have flaws. May 18 2008
By Glenn Laycock TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Zhang Yimou knows how to tell a story so well - he has such a personal way of making you feel so much for his characters.

The father and mother are just outstanding, and the story of their children is simply amazing -- the daughter "Fengxia" is wonderfully portrayed. The people are all so sweet really.

I highly recommend his movie because it tells the struggles of this family so well, you care about them and hope they survive all the changes happening around them.

The acting is first rate, and gets a wonderful taste of China's recent history.

The storytelling is so well done, and you care about the family so much; the tragic parts are extremely hard to watch.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gamble debt leads to a change in life... Feb. 5 2004
Fugui loses everything in gambling, which leads to his wife Jiazhen leaving him. He then loses all his possessions and his father dies. In shame he has to move into the slums and begin a new life that demands that he stop gambling and begin to take responsibility for himself and those whom he cares about. Slowly he regains some value in his life as his wife returns with his children and he begins a new life as a puppeteer. To Live brings Fugui through 40 years of happiness and pain as he is experiencing the bliss and troubles of life. In the end, Zhang leaves the audience with a terrific cinematic experience, which offers both tragedy and humor as life does to us all.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Merci pour le DVD Live

L'envoi a été rapide et soigné. Merci beaucoup! C'est juste dommage qu'il n'y ait pas de version française disponible...
Published on Jan. 10 2010 by Suzanne Lassonde
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointment
This film completely butchers, rearranges, and rewerites an incredibly moving novel. I suggest that you read the book first.
Published on March 29 2004 by C. M. Pritchard
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Stars +
To Live is a masterful project and deserves the best praises for foreign cinema. It touches every emotion possible in its depiction of one family's faults and successes; life as... Read more
Published on March 27 2004 by vannie osborne
5.0 out of 5 stars IT IS VERY BEAUTIFUL
Published on Feb. 18 2004 by IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
5.0 out of 5 stars Both an artistic and political movie masterpiece...
This is among the greatest of Asian films. It received two Cannes Film Festival awards (Grand Jury Prize and Best Actor). Its director has been previously nominated for an Oscar. Read more
Published on Dec 25 2003 by E. Chu
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad and noble, and full of hope
To Live is the best Chinese film I have ever seen. It gives a wonderful view of modern Chinese history, with as honest a perspective as can be hoped for. Read more
Published on Dec 21 2003 by Shelly Bryant
5.0 out of 5 stars A foreign film you will never regret owning
This film is perhaps one of my favorites of all time. It is nothing short of beautiful, tragic, inspiring and extremely involving. Read more
Published on Dec 6 2003 by J. H. Iovino
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute masterpiece
Zhang Yimou is a truly gifted storyteller, a rare film director able to hook to you in right from the start. Read more
Published on Dec 1 2003
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