Synopsis by Bhob Stewart
The Chinese title translates as "Growing to Manhood." Lu Xuecheng, a 1990 graduate of the Beijing Film Academy, filmed several shorts before embarking on his feature directorial debut drama. The symbol of Chinese culture, the Great Wall, is viewed with awe by two boys. One is the film's adult narrator Zhou Qing (Zhu Hongmao), who reflects on his life: The story opens in Beijing of 1976 when shantytown youth Zhou reads a comic book, The Making of Steel, adapted from the popular 1932-34 novel by Russian author Nikolai Alekseyevich Ostrovski (1904-1936). Praised as a peak of early Soviet literature, this autobiographical story traced the life of crippled Pavel Korchagin, who overcame handicaps to become a successful teacher and writer. In his rundown neighborhood, Zhou and his pal Xiao team with guitarist Jiwen to form a music group featuring Jiwen's girlfriend Fu as the lead singer. Zhou develops a crush on Fu, but no sexual relationship materializes. When Zhou finds work in a bathhouse for railway workers, train driver Zhu, who owns a copy of the original Ostrovski novel, becomes his spiritual mentor. Jumping from the early '80s to later in the decade, Zhou returns to Beijing from Germany, discovers that he no longer feels a bond with his musician friends, and seeks out his mentor who gave his life direction and purpose. Accompanying the film's tapestry of life in contemporary China is a soft score of guitar music composed by lead actor Zhu Hongmao. Shown at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.
High Production Values