Tian Zhuangzhung’s Springtime in a Small Town is a visually sublime and nostalgic film that is somewhat reminiscent of Satyajit Ray’s exquisite Charulata in understatedly depicting the repercussions of emotional betrayal. The film takes place in the ruins of a large rural mansion in postwar China, as a physically fragile aristocrat (Wu Jun) is reunited with a childhood friend, a Shanghai doctor named Zhang Zhichen (Xin Bajqing), only to discover that Zhichen was his wife, Yu Wen’s (Hu Jingfan) first love. Tian uses slow tracking, long shots, and evocative landscapes to create a timeless, romantic, and old-fashioned melodrama in the best sense of the word. An exquisite, subtly sensual, haunting, and unexpectedly moving mature work from a very talented filmmaker – one of my favorites from the festival.
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