When I was young, my parents often brought me to cinemas to watch movies made in China. I found them highly “educational” – a departure from the usual HK and Taiwan comedies and romances. China probably made its best movies in the 1990s during the early days of reforms and one movie that left a very lasting impression was this movie – 双旗镇刀客 made in 1991. The main characters were still teenagers, but they put up an admirable performance.
The setting would have been surreal for anyone who has not been to the northern reaches of Gansu Province. The plot is very simple, with no twists and turns, but I must admit that I sat glued to my TV screen back then. The main character, 小辫子 was an innocent kid like 张无忌 in 倚天屠龙记. Like 张无忌, he also had consummate skills. The best part of the movie is that it brings out so many human factors and emotions which are so prevalent in Chinese society. People tend to size others up before deciding whether to have anything to do with them. Some folks promise a lot more than they can deliver. They can wine and dine with you, but they can’t fight alongside you.
It also tells something about the 见死不救 mentality, abundantly exemplified by social media videos before censorship filters only allow “positive energy” to pass through. The reluctance of the people in town to take ownership of the butcher’s family’s problems, having no qualms about sacrificing them to save their own lives is the complete opposite of the Saving Private Ryan mentality. Wouldn’t we expect the entire village to team up against the bandits? No, they fear and yield in the face of the powerful bullies – just like in real life. Closer to home, do we understand what kampung spirit really means? Let’s not use the term so often if we don’t.
I have a pretty good memory, but interestingly, watching this movie again after 20 years, I’ve completely forgotten about the 沙里飞 character. I guess it’s in my avoid the flashy and superficial folks out there.
Apolitical Chinese movies like 双旗镇刀客 are very rare these days. This movie is a gem. Below are the recent photos of the two main characters, 高一玮 (currently 49) as 小辫子 and 赵玛娜 (currently 44) as his 小媳妇儿。Gao Yi Wei is a Manchu and Zhao Ma Na is a Hui.
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