Famed director Feng Xiaogang (“I Am Not Madam Bovary”, “Assembly”) is back with another film, “Youth” (《芳华》in Mandarin, alternately translated as “Bloom of Youth”). The movie features a relatively fresh cast as the adolescent members of a People’s Liberation Army artistic troupe, tracing their triumphs, trials, and tribulations on the road towards adulthood.
“Youth” represents an intriguing fusion of not only Feng’s stylistic strengths, but also Chinese film genres. Feng has previously made both military-themed movies and romance flicks, but this represents the first combination of the two — one that, at least judging from the trailer, also borrows some of the cinematic finesse that won “I Am Not Madam Bovary” worldwide critical acclaim.
Though it’s not immediately clear if “Youth” is a tragi-romance, we do know it lies at the intersection of coming-of-age and Communist nostalgia genres. That would put it within the realm of such films as Under the Hawthorn Tree (directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Zhou Dongyu) — though “Youth” has the notable innovation of being set throughout the 1970s and 80s rather than the Cultural Revolution era.
Fun fact on the “fresh” cast: apparently Feng Xiaogang strived to only cast actresses without plastic surgery in order to “maintain a real, natural and sincere feel”. Whatever that means (and without knowing if Feng actually followed through), it looks like we won’t have to wait too long to find out. According to Douban, the film will premiere in mainland China on September 30, 2017 and is 2hr 26min in length.