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The Chinese director Feng Xiaogang is not quite the Asian Steven Spielberg, but like the American director, he’s achieved blockbuster successes in a variety of genres. His 2006 film, “Legend of the Black Scorpion,” was a sumptuous, “Hamlet”-derived, martial arts period piece. “If You Are the One” from 2008 was a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of entrepreneurial wealth. And last year’s “I Am Not Madame Bovary” was a not-quite-successful formal experiment in adapting a best-selling novel.

His new film, “Youth,” based on a Yan Geling novel, is about a People’s Liberation Army dance troupe in the early 1970s. Western viewers will detect resonances of “Stage Door” and “The Way We Were” in the story, which largely focuses on the disdainful treatment received by the newcomer He Xiaoping (Miao Miao), a girl from a poor background who’s been recruited by the heroic, idealistic Liu Feng (Huang Xuan). During the Sino-Vietnamese war, the entertainers are forced to become warriors and medics.


Trailer: ‘Youth’

A preview of the film.

By CHINA LION FILM DISTRIBUTION on Publish Date September 24, 2017. Image courtesy of Internet Video Archive. Watch in Times Video »

The movie’s depiction of cultural change is tidy to the point of being facile, which isn’t to say it’s ineffective. (It seems to have ruffled some feathers in its native country, where its release, intended for September, was held up until recently.) One shot late in the film, after Mao’s death, shows a soldier in profile stepping in front of a bright red billboard — one that advertises Coca-Cola rather than the glories of Communist rule.

As a straight, sentimental melodrama, “Youth” works well. While there are a lot of conventional tropes, the cast enacts them with such fresh, tenderhearted sincerity that they regain some power.



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  • Director Xiaogang Feng

  • Writer

  • Stars Xuan Huang, Miao Miao, Caiyu Yang, Li Xiaofeng, TianChen Wang

  • Running Time 2h 16m

  • Genre Drama

  • > Movie data powered by IMDb.com

    Last updated: Dec 16, 2017

Not rated. In Mandarin with English subtitles.

A version of this review appears in print on December 15, 2017, on Page C14 of the New York edition with the headline: Youth. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe

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Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/14/movies/youth-review.html

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