Together is a lushly romantic film about friendship, but initially itís hard to pin down exactly what the film is going to be about. 13 year-old Xiaochun (Tang Yun) is a sorrow-faced violin prodigy; heís won a prize every year since he was five. His poor, but indefatigable peasant father Liu Cheng (Liu Peiqi), is determined that his son should further his music education in Beijing, so they farewell their small provincial town. Liu Cheng is dazzled by dreams of success, but Xiaochun has become entranced by the fiercely cosmopolitan Lili (Chen Hong), who lives upstairs. She resembles the glamorous women heís cut from fashion magazines in his first stirrings of puberty, and hidden amongst his sheet music.Director Chen Kaige and his co-writer Xue Xiaolu keep switching focus. When Liu finds an irascible old music tutor (Wang Zhiwen) for his son, it looks like weíre in for a Chinese Madame Sousatzka. But then weíre spending time with Lili, and her wealthy businessman lover, and then a musical Svengali (played by Kaige himself). The message for Xiaochun is to always play music with feeling but itís his father that chooses between fame and fortune and a life of consummate musicianship. Together, Xiaochun and Liu learn about music, family and the price of success; itís a coming-of-age tale for both of them.
Kaige is busy orchestrating a rousing emotional finale, and he starts lingering too long on every scene, as if reluctant to finally surrender his characters to us. He also gradually sacrifices the gently comedic tone, with its pleasant wistful streak, for no-holds-barred melodrama and soap opera. But Together is never less than enjoyable, in its old-fashioned crowd-pleasing way. And it certainly looks fine, although thatís no surprise from the director of Yellow Earth and Farewell My Concubine.
I never saw Kaigeís reputedly awful English-language thriller, Killing Me Softly (with Heather Graham and Joseph Fiennes). But by returning to China, Kaige has made a more accomplished Western film than he probably ever could in America.If the 50th Sydney Film Festival were a restaurant, Together would be a Chinese dessert Ė rich and sweet and filling.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2003 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.