Banned in China upon its completion, Tian Zhuangzhuang’s The Blue Kite was a bit of an enigma for me, largely because I didn’t grow up in the timeframe that the film is set in, and thus many of the messages and metaphors used in the film were lost on me. Evidently, they were not lost on the Chinese government, who not only refused to allow it to be seen in China, but imposed a ten-year ban on Zhuangzhuang’s filmmaking, preventing him from making any films for the next decade. This would seem to be a steep sentence handed down on Zhuangzhuang, but considering the film he made, it’s really no surprise that the totalitarian Chinese government would get upset at a film that basically decries Chinese governments over the years and their influence on regular family life in China.
That is basically the gist of the plot; we follow a family living in China, mostly through the eyes of Tietou, a young boy born at the start of the film, as they try and live in the rapidly changing environment of 1950s China, despite the government’s consistent interference in their regular lives. I have to admit, it was a little difficult to fully pay attention to the film’s plot, pretty much because it seemed so superficial; the plot developments that were happening were only happening as a pretext to get to the interference of the government in the family’s otherwise happy lives. Still, despite the somewhat opaque narrative, there were a few things I was able to appreciate with this one;well, one really. The cinematography was very good; I noticed a lot of times that the camera used dolly shots, well executed ones, to enhance the scenes they were used in, and there was a lot of intentional use of color, as well as light and shadow, to depict the mood of each section of the film. This, however, was not enough to hold my interest through the film’s two-plus hour running time, and I was a bit flustered at the lack of anything else in the film that served to keep me engaged. Just an additional heads up as well; the film has a hell of a downer ending, so if that’s not your thing, this probably won’t be worth your time.
This is one of those films where a lot happens, but at the same time, nothing really happens. It’s an effective film, and an important one given the country’s reaction to it when it was finished, but it is not a particularly entertaining one. I pretty much got the point of the story about a half hour into the film, and the rest from there was just tedium. I should’ve been a little more concerned than I was, when I went to a few congregating review sites to see the general opinion on this one, and found it spread out all over the spectrum. Boiling it down, this was just another example of a film that I understood the end goal of it too early into it, and then was forced to sit through the rest of it only to find that it perfectly met my conclusions. There’s some merit to be found here, but not very much.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10