Breaking With Old Ideas (Li Wenhua, 1975)
education reforms in rural China, 1958. breaking the old confucian and bourgeois practices and thought that still held in institutions. the revolutionising of a college to give better access to its poorest students, lessening the study load to allow time for working demands, and to change the curriculum to better meet the lives of its students (e.g. lessons on seed health being taught in the sewing season instead of the harvest; on local animals like pigs instead of horses). and, again, it all just seems so nice: everyone working together, laughing, singing; criticism coming in the form a hand on the shoulder and a “Comrade, listen” instead of the brutality that did occur; shining, harmonious, glorious red youth.
the most interesting thing about it is that its a movie about the beginnings of the Great Leap Forward made towards the end of the Cultural Revolution - the language of the latter being retroactively appropriated to fit (and criticise) the earlier push. and also that the big evil threat in the movie of capitalist influence seeping in and poisoning the party seems not only to look back at what drove the Cultural Revolution, but is also fearfully prescient to the changes that were only a few years later realised.
its also surprisingly open about the teething problems of revolution, though never critical. there’s a scene in the film where the kids skip out on their exams to fumigate against a coming insect swarm, as if to remedy the cause of the 1958-61 famine to old form administrators who wouldn’t let their kids go out and ensure an abundant crop. overall it maybe the most didactic Chinese movie i’ve seen, much lower on the spectacle and melodrama. there’s a reason for that, i guess. but i don’t know… it (however much of a myth it is) just seems so nice.