Spring in a Small Town 小城之春 (1948)
Spring in a Small Town was a Chinese film released in 1948 and directed by Fei Mu (费穆). The film was based on a short story by Li Tianji (李天济), and was produced by the Wenhua Film Company.
Though its reputation suffered after 1949 in the mainland after the Communist revolution, within the last 20 years it had become known as one of the greatest Chinese films ever made.
Made after the war and the so-called "Solitary Island" period of Shanghai film-making, Spring in a Small Town, unlike its leftist predecessors of the 1930s, was a more intimate affair with only tangential references to the politics of the day. Indeed, the film can be distinguished from those earlier works by its more mature treatment of inter-personal conflicts, particularly in the sense that there are no villains or antagonists except for time and circumstance. Even the husband, who ostensibly stands between Zhou Yuwen and Zhang Zhichen's love, is an inherently decent and good human being.
Taking place in a ruined family compound after the war, the film tells the story of the once prosperous Dai family. The husband and patriarch, Dai Liyan (Shi Yu) is an invalid, and spends his days in the courtyard nostalgic for the past. His marriage to Zhou Yuwen (Wei Wei) has long been rendered loveless, though both still feel concern for the other. Liyan's young teenage sister Dai Xiu (Zhang Hongmei), meanwhile, is too young to remember the past, and stays cheerful and playful in the ruins of her home.
Into this dreary but unchanging existence comes Liyan's childhood friend Zhang Zhichen (Li Wei), a doctor from Shanghai and a former flame of Zhou Yuwen before she ever met her husband. The rest of the film details Zhou Yuwen's conflicting emotions between her love for Zhang, and her loyalty to her husband and his family.