Iron & Silk

Two unusual tapes offer an introductory glimpse of Chinese culture through Western and native eyes. With Iron & Silk, the introduction is basic indeed — about first-grade level. Sinophile Mark Salzman not only wrote a book about his postgrad years teaching English in China, he plays himself in the movie version as well. Despite the chutzpah, Iron is little more than a travel diary hung on a bony armature of predictable narratives (Karate Kid-like tutelage by a master of martial arts, forbidden friendship with a young Chinese woman). Far richer is China seen through the Chinese lens of Ju Dou. This tale of doomed love unfurls with almost morbid inexorability as a series of beautiful, kinetic still lifes. A fabric-dyeing mill in the 1920s is the setting for Ju Dou’s (Gong Li) humiliation by an abusive husband and her consuming passion for his adopted nephew. The movie’s stately sense of the dramatic frames a window through which a distant scene comes vibrantly close to Western view. Iron & Silk: C Ju Dou: B+

Iron & Silk
  • Movie
  • 92 minutes