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Cannes: Critics Divided on Zhang Yimou’s Latest ‘Coming Home’ — Timeless or Plodding?

Cannes: Critics Divided on Zhang Yimou's Latest 'Coming Home' -- Timeless or Plodding?

At 64 years old, Chinese auteur Zhang Yimou is back at Cannes with out-of-competition title “Coming Home,” starring his iconic muse Gong Li, and following an unhappy homecoming that acts as metaphor for the country’s coming-to-terms with the cultural revolution. Some critics are digging it while others are left cold; the film’s no-holds-barred emotion — and a much-mentioned piano score — is either having reviewers reach for their hankies or checking their watches. Highlights from a review roundup, below.

Sony Pictures Classics already has stateside rights to the film, which is a hit in China.

Hollywood Reporter:

Chinese auteur Zhang Yimou slips back into his comfort zone
for what is essentially a tragic romance with Coming Home. Reuniting again with
his chief muse, Gong Li, Zhang flirts with historical criticism and reflection
on the impact of past social policies but pulls up short and settles for a
plodding romance that is as lightweight as it is aimless.

Variety:

Filmmaking doesn’t get more traditional or timeless than
Chinese master Zhang Yimou’s “Coming Home,” a family drama of guilt, love and
reconciliation set during the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution.
Heartbreaking in its depiction of ordinary lives affected by political
upheaval, this ode to the fundamental values that survive even under such dire
circumstances has an epic gravity that recalls another great historical
romance, “Doctor Zhivago.” While younger viewers may find Zhang’s classical
style and grungy period backdrop too unfashionable to engage, the film’s rich
melodramatic thrust has opened the floodgates for domestic audiences, grossing
nearly $19.6 million in five days. Sony Classics will release the film
Stateside.

The Playlist, in a B- review:

“Coming Home,” the eighth collaboration between the director
and his first and most frequent leading lady Gong Li plays pointedly Out of
Competition in Cannes, and while tears will be jerked, heartstrings plucked and
throats enlumpened, it has to go down as a disappointment in the director’s
catalogue.

Screen:

China’s foremost director Zhang Yimou is now 64 years old,
and the personal pain that permeated his last film to deal directly with the
Cultural Revolution, To Live, has faded to a sad resignation and a mood of
tender forgiveness in the emotional Coming Home. Reuniting Zhang with Gong Li,
the actress he discovered in Red Sorghum and his off-screen partner for many
years, Coming Home doesn’t try to pick over old wounds…

Western audiences may find Coming Home slightly sentimental,
but it is likely to touch hearts deeply in China where it will be viewed as a
step on the road to reconciliation…

Coming Home fields a big comeback performance from Gong Li,
… It’s a big, tragic female part, and demanding of the actress — her role is
also symbolic and must work on several levels.

Guardian:

Zhang Yimou’s ghost story about a bittersweet homecoming is
a metaphor for China’s attempts to reconcile itself to the cultural revolution.
Sadly the sentiment, and the piano, gets irritating.

First Showing:

This is a beautiful, tender, moving film about love and
dedication and patience, and will leave you with tears in your eyes, as long as
you still have a beating heart inside your chest. It may be a simple story, but
it’s such a special, sincere film made with care.

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