Bloody Morning

dir. Li Shaohong

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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The murder of a schoolteacher in a desperately poor rural village is pieced together from a series of fragmentary flashbacks in this adventurous, long unavailable film by director Li Shaohong.

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Unavailable for many years and barely known to critics or audiences, Bloody Morning is now considered among the greatest Fifth Generation films. Freely adapted from Gabriel García Márquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the film follows the investigation of a local teacher's murder in a small and desperately poor rural village, the story of the crime gradually pieced together from the fragmented memories of witnesses forced to testify at an inquest. Sharing with her Fifth Generation colleagues Chen Kaige and Tian Zhuangzhuang a remarkable eye for the barren landscapes of northern China and a fascination with small-town life — especially those enduring superstitions that Communism failed to erase — director Li Shaohong also introduces several formal innovations, particularly in storytelling structure, that remain unprecedented in Chinese cinema. "With its maze of snow-dusted paths and smoky, damp interiors, the village provides an ideally insular, almost claustrophobic setting ... Scenes such as the joyless wedding proceedings and the villagers' collective impotence in the final act speak volumes about a psychology mired in tradition and ignorance" (Laura Thielen, San Francisco International Film Festival).