Having lived through the political and cultural turbulence of China’s recent past, it’s hardly surprising that Chen Kaige’s films reflect his preoccupation with the changes his homeland has, is, and will continue to experience. While is other films, such as FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE, have dealt with history, his latest, TOGETHER, looks as the present using music and a father-son relationship as the focus.
When I spoke with Kaige on May 15, 2003, the conversation touched on politics, the difference between the city and the country, and the importance of finding the right hairstyle to capture a character.
What does music mean? Its an interesting question and one posed with grace and not a little irony by Chen Kaige in TOGETHER. Using the backdrop of the uneasy cultural shifts in contemporary China and the ever mysterious dynamics of the father-son relationship, he has brought forth film that is deeply affecting and rapturously beautiful.
TOGETHER’s music is as sumptuous as its story. Pieces from Western classical and baroque, to traditional Chinese folk music and the best of contemporary Chinese composers carry the story along as effectively as the dialogue. (Chun’s solos are performed by Tang Rong, who makes a cameo appearance as one of Yus former pupils who has made it big in the eyes of everyone but Yu.) But the music in question is more than what is played on any instrument, it is the music of the soul and never presented better than here.