Together Chen Kaige

Together Chen Kaige
Xiaochun is a 13-year-old Chinese violin prodigy whose devoted, yet impoverished, father, Liu Cheng, moves them to Beijing to find the boy a worthy teacher. The teacher turns out to be the cranky Professor Jiang (a brilliantly cynical Zhiwen Wang) who neglects Xiaochun until the boy walks out during a lousy lesson. As his father picks up menial work to make ends meet, Xiaochun strikes a friendship with a pretty, but spoiled, yuppie named Lili (Hong Chen), who battles her two-timing boyfriend and shops for smart clothes. Xiaochun hones his musical skills under Professor Jiang and learns hard lessons about love through Lili's rocky relationships. As the boy matures spiritually and musically, his father hires a more prestigious teacher to advance his career. Altogether, these influences turn Xiaochun into a thoughtful young man and a talent worthy to perform in a prestigious competition. Based on a true-life story, Together feels like a Hollywood movie shot in Mandarin. It's a charming feel-good picture designed to appeal to Western audiences. The performances are strong all around, although Peiqi Liu overplays his hand and comes off sweet and corny as Xiaochun's father. Hong Chen rescues the yuppie Lili from cliché by giving her soul and sympathy. However, it's a pity that Zhiwen Wan's Professor Jiang bows out so soon. Together is beautifully filmed by Kim Hyljngkoo. The images are lush and rich, designed to contrast ancient Beijing with modern and materialist China. Best known for grandiose historic epics such as The Emperor and the Assassin, director Chen Kaige tackles an altogether different film here, one that's lighter in tone and relies on character relationships. The extras are limited to an interview with Chen Kaige and a trailer. Sadly there's neither audio commentary nor information on the real-life prodigy, the crisp cinematography or the dazzling Beijing locations. (Lions Gate/TVA)