|Yi ge mo sheng nu ren de lai xin 2004 China Letter from an Unknown Woman|
There may be some cultural nuances that were lost on me, and I do have to say that the subtitles that came with the film were really, really bad. Here’s where I got lost: The character development didn’t seem secure enough for me to accept the first disappearance of the writer after the initial affair. Frankly, it shocked me. I went along with it for the sake of the story, but it left me twitching a little. Then when they meet again and the writer doesn’t recognize the woman, I fell off the bandwagon. I can accept not recognizing someone with a different hairdo eight years later but once you’ve gotten to the naughty bits, I don’t think so. I imagine this is all nit-picky to the point of a story about the sadness of an extremely one-sided love affair, but I wanted something to assure me that this one-sided love was warranted and I didn’t get it.
Again, maybe I just missed some of the cultural nuance, some consciousness that would have helped me also understand how the woman supported herself and her child. I read somewhere that she did this by being an escort. Maybe it was the subtitles that let me down or I’m rather naive when it comes to recognizing the giveaways, but I didn’t get that from the movie. I know there’s always people who never seem to work, yet survive just fine in the movies. So what’s my problem?
I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoys a good love story. It’s a beautiful film, and if you’re not a lion in the tall grass, stalking, just waiting to pounce, like me, when you think that Xu Jinglei has failed in her exposition, the story is probably pretty good too. Stories for movies often come from outside sources but it ultimately falls on the director to tell the story in a convincing manner. Xu Jinglei, I’m officially a fanboy. Get to work.
Summary: The film is an adaptation of Stefan Zweig's 1922 novella of the same name which was also adapted in 1948 by screenwriter Howard Koch. The film stars Jinglei Xu and Jiang Wen as lovers during the 1930s and 1940s in Beijing.
Originally the film's story was to have taken place in modern times, spanning the 1970s through the 1990s. Eventually Xu moved the film's setting several decades back in time, to avoid dealing with social issues such as unmarried mothers and prostitution during the Cultural Revolution and beyond that would have aroused the suspicions of Chinese censors.
Xu also decided to use Beijing as the primary setting over cities like Shanghai (which she felt was overly colonial), Chongqing, and Nanjing (both of which were too turbulent during the war to adequately serve as the setting for a love story). Additionally, Xu felt that Beijing would offer a distinct visual perspective that would have been absent in other Chinese cities.