Director: Lu Le (2004)
This heart-wrenching film, The Foliage, is to date, the most touching love story to hit the Chinese box office. Winner of the 2001 Hong Kong Golden Horse Best Actor award, Liu Ye, stars in this film, and strays from his typical serious character role and stretches into the realm of youthful playfulness.
The film is set in Yunnan during the Cultural Revolution and follows the love story of Xing Yu (Shu Qi) and Liu Simeng (Liu Ye). Both assigned to the same countryside community, the two embody the melding of China at the time in work camps across China - Xing is originally from the countryside, while Liu is city born and bred, sent to Xing's town for hard labor and reeducation. The two fall desperately in love, at first sight, but Xing Yu is deeply involved in a relationship with a man whom she has known since childhood.
Xing Yu is suddenly given the opportunity to leave the commune and encouraged by her peers, including her boyfriend, decides to take the chance, and move on. Behind her she leaves her entire community she has known since birth, her now-husband, and Liu. She does not see Liu again until years later at her husband's funeral, where the two are forced to reconcile what love was left behind.
The general tone of the film is one of quietness, hopelessness, and depression, with the stunning beauty of the Yunnan landscape as a backdrop. Both performances by Liu Ye and Shu Qi are exceptional and place the two in the running for honors at numerous festivals in 2004. With great departure from his role as Jiang Wen in Green Tea (an honest, serious character), Liu plays the part of Simeng with great youthfulness and enthusiasm.
The film is a lesson in reconciling one's fate during an extremely suffocating time in China's history.
(cityweekend.com.cn May 18, 2004)