To Live (1994) - Zhang Yimou
It has been almost 8 years since I last saw this film and there's a reason. This was arguably the saddest film I had ever watched in my life and although incredibly moving, is a bit tough to sit through. As I'm more intently gearing up for a revision of my top 100 this was an essential film to revisit, after all how can I have a film in my top 20 that I've only seen once and 8 years ago at that? The film was still quite moving, and I was amazed at how much I remembered from the film and the overwhelming message throughout. The picture although horribly tragic and depressing throughout contains some level of hope and affirms the will to live present in the human spirit. I can't honestly say the film will remain in my top 20 after a repeat viewing as it failed to captivate me in the same way it did several years ago. Still the most profound film Yimou has made and the one I'd most likely regard as his best, however knowing what was going to happen made me almost hesitant to appreciate it this time. Unlike Ordinary People which showed me on a repeat viewing exactly why I had found the film so amazing the first time, To Live came up just slightly short. The cinematography was excellent and as a portrait of turbulent Chinese history it is incredible, but perhaps I had let myself praise the film too much. I hate it when this happens.