The Firecracker Showcase opens tonight with a bittersweet romance from mainland China.
Nuan tells the story of one man's return to the village he grew up in and the people he left behind, most notably the title character, Nuan, his first love. The film follows the few days he is back home coupled with flashbacks explaining how it was he came to leave and how the life of the headstrong Nuan took a very different path from the one she had hoped for.
Jing He's (Guo Xiaodong) examination of what he left when he headed for university in Beijing is a melancholy affair as the memory of what might have been meets the reality of the life he left Nuan (the stunning Li Jia) to lead. Two other men fall under Nuan's spell, a traveling actor whose brief appearance begins Nuan's drift away from Jing He, and the village mute known only as Dummy who moves from bullying the young Nuan to being the only constant in her life.
The Chinese mainland is beautifully captured, especially in the more idealised flashback parts of the narrative as the stunning countryside and rustic charm of the village slowly gives way to a more basic view of life well away from the lives of 'townsfolk' such as Jing He has become.
All the principal actors do a masterful job of moving between their younger and older selves, but special mention should go to Teruyuki Kagawa as the mute whose character is ultimately noble enough to overcome his own selfishness in a way that his beloved Nuan never could.
Based on Mo Yan's story The White Dog and the Swing the film has won much critical acclaim winning the Best Film Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival.
The film shows this evening at 6.45 at the Curzon Mayfair (we'll be there) and again on Thursday the 15th at 4pm at the Genesis Whitechapel. If you go along tonight you'll be treated to free Cobra beer and free dimsum from the Yauatcha Restaurant. Nuan's director Huo Jianqi and producer Dong Fan will be on hand to answer questions after tonight's screening. Huo Jianqi's Life Show is also showing later in the Showcase.
The Festival continues until the 18th and full details can be found right here and we'll continue to point out some of the highlights in advance of their screenings over the next ten days.