Yi ge mo sheng nu ren de lai xin   2004   China Letter from an Unknown Woman
Letter from an Unknown Woman Image Cover
Additional Images
Director:Jinglei Xu
Studio:Asian Union Film & Entertainment
Writer:Jinglei Xu, Stefan Zweig
IMDb Rating:6.6 (414 votes)
Awards:1 win & 1 nomination
Duration:89 min
Jinglei Xu  ...  (Director)
Jinglei Xu, Stefan Zweig  ...  (Writer)
Jinglei Xu  ...  Woman
Wen Jiang  ...  Writer
Jue Huang  ...  The Officer
Huang Jiao  ...  Officer Huang
Yuan Lin  ...  Girl
Enran Ma  ...  Stepfather
Xiaoming Su  ...  Mother
Zihao Su  ...  Son
Feihu Sun  ...  Steward
Baomo Zhang  ...  Landlady
Ping Bin Lee  ...  Cinematographer
Osamu Kubota  ...  Composer
Hai Lin  ...  Composer
Comments: Xu Jinglei, may I have some more, please? This film really excites me about Xu Jinglei. The directorial hand is very mature and accomplished. The film has a great period feel to it, like something from Hollywood in the 40s. The cinematography by Lee Pin Bing is gorgeous and I’m sure that helped. The acting is all quite good. Strange, then, to have to say that I didn’t really enjoy the movie. :( Again, as with My Father and I, it’s the story that let me down. I know it’s an old story, one I haven’t read nor seen any previous adaptations of. I think it might work on paper, in outline form, but I couldn’t get on board with this particular presentation.

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.

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