The Spring River Flows East
(Yijiang chunshui xiang dong liu)
(Tears of Yangtze)
Bai Yang, Jin Tao, Wu Yinyan, Shu Xiuwen,
Part I: Wartime Separation (Ba nian li luan); Part II: Darkness and Dawn (Tianliang qian-hou). Included on the Hong Kong Film Awards list of the greatest Chinese-language films of all time, The Spring River Flows East has been termed China’s Gone with the Wind, a sweeping decades-spanning epic that sums up an entire nation’s history and identity. A married couple in Shanghai are separated during the chaos of the 1937 Japanese invasion and the Sino-Japanese War, with their fates reflecting the divided classes of the nation. The husband reinvents himself in Chongqing as a successful businessman, while his wife and family remain in Shanghai, stuck in poverty. Cross-cutting between the husband’s life of wealth and decadence and the wife’s life of sorrow and scarcity, the film incorporates harrowing newsreel footage from the war and Japanese occupation for even further, sorrowful effect. The most politically provocative and militantly left-wing work made during the immediate postwar era, Spring River was codirector Zheng Junli’s first foray into fiction filmmaking after years as a successful actor.