The Spring Comes to the Withered Tree
(Kumu feng chun)
You Jia, Xu Zhihua, Shanguang Yunzhu, Qian Qianli,
A critical hit during one of China’s most politically charged periods, Zheng’s follow-up to his 1959 anniversary epics merged Soviet-style socialist realism with his own breakthroughs in film technique, specifically his use of continuous camera movement in the spirit of traditional Chinese scrolls. Tractor-kino at its finest, the film revolves around two rural lovers—one struck with a deadly disease—and their eventual survival thanks to socialist medical advances. One Western critic called the plot “dreadful,” but Zheng’s imagery is something else entirely, “a pioneering attempt at bridging the aesthetics of Chinese art with Chinese film aesthetics” (Lin Niantong).