When most people think of Chinese films they tend to think of the grandiose historical/kungfu epics such as Hero and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and if you’re talking kungfu it’s hard to include Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon.  While all these movies bring a certain badassness to the table, and in their own rights are some of the best films in Chinese cinematic history, it would be a mistake to assume that all Chinese films are kungfu pics.  Here are a couple of movies I’ve seen here in China (both with English subtitles by the way, I’m not there yet) that do a good job of representing modern Chinese culture, both in what they depict as well as the sort of film that the makers set out to make.

Getting Home is a sentimental comedy by director Zhao Yang, starring one of the most well known comedians in China, Zhao Benshan.  Zhao plays a construction worker who journeys across the South of China to bring the body of his best friend back home to be buried.  It’s got the potential to be, but this is no Chinese version of Weekend at Bernie’s . Zhao meets a long his journey a plethora of lower tier Chinese citizens (very characteristic of the South of China, especially the West), and along the way travels through some of the most beautiful and bucolic scenes of rural China.  This movie is a huge crowd pleaser.  My only gripe with it is it’s lousy English name.  The Chinese name is 落叶归根, (Lùo yè gūi gēn), or The Fallen Leaf Returns to the Root.

This movie finds its way into most top ten Chinese movie lists, and for good reason.  It’s beautifully filmed (perhaps some of the best cinematography I’ve ever seen) and executed with Sergio-Leone-like patience and deliberateness.  Guei is young man who moves from the Chinese country side to Beijing and is left in awe of modern society.  He get’s a job as a courier and is given a bicycle, the metaphoric key to the city.  When the bike is stolen Guei must find who took it or be in debt to his employers.  For it’s violence this movie was at first banned in China, though the ban was eventually lifted.  While it might not make you smile in the same Getting Home does, this movie is truly worth seeing, especially for those who are interested in modern Chinese culture.  The Chinese name is 十七岁的单车(Shí qī suì de dān chē), literally Seventeen-Year-Old’s Bicycle.

Anyone else out there got any Chinese films they enjoy that don’t involve emperors, swords, and lightning fast moves?