The Blue Kite

dir. Tian Zhuangzhuang

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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A young boy witnesses the terrible human cost of three enormous historical ruptures — the Anti-Rightist Movement, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution — in this lyrical, deeply moving masterpiece by Tian Zhuangzhuang, one of the pinnacles of Fifth Generation cinema.

Tian Zhuangzhuang's lyrical, deeply moving film focuses on a young boy named Tietou, who, from his humble vantage point in a traditional hutong courtyard in Beijing, witnesses the terrible human cost of three enormous historical ruptures — the Anti-Rightist Movement, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution — as he grows into a man. A film whose delicate understatement belies its simmering anger, The Blue Kite feels very much in dialogue with the historical elegies of the great Hou Hsiao-hsien, both in its themes and its aesthetics. Like Hou, Tian is a formidable visual stylist — his masterpiece The Horse Thief is among the most beautiful films ever made — and in The Blue Kite he devises a sophisticated design schema that employs a distinct colour palette for each of the film's three chapters (titled "Father," "Uncle," and "Stepfather," after the three patriarchs who Tietou sees successively swept away by China's tumultuous mid-twentieth-century history). Bearing quiet witness to what was lost in China's lurch into modernity, The Blue Kite creates a feeling of almost universal sorrow without ever leaving its beautifully intimate register. "Of all the remarkable films to have come out of China over the past few years, The Blue Kite could well be the most authentic, the most accessible and, finally, the most powerful" (Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times).