The Day the Sun Turned Cold
Reviewed by YTSL
Early on in this 1994 film that Yim Ho directed,
wrote the script for and co-produced (along with Wong Hing Dung and Wong
Sik Ban), a twenty-four year old man is heard to assert the following about
his mother: “I don’t hate her. She’s a good woman. I love her
a lot”. Although he sounded sincere when issuing these statements,
it’s very difficult to take him at his word. This is because of it
being so that pretty much the very first things that this recently demobbed
soldier turned welder is shown doing in this chill-inducing offering is
going to a police station to, seemingly out of the blue, accuse the woman
who had raised -- and, according to her (then) husband, spoilt -- him of
having committed a murder -- a crime whose penalty (as pointed out by the
already hard pressed police captain played by Li Hu) in Communist ruled
China, the country where this story is set, is death by way of a firing
squad -- that few other people look to have suspected her of enacting.
When the point is reached in THE DAY THE SUN TURNED
COLD that this not very sympathetic fellow -- who argues that he did what
he did because his conscience forced him to but gets very negatively described
anyways in this 1994 effort’s Chinese title (which translates into English
as “Traitorous Prince”) -- actually finally tells the woman he has essentially
betrayed “Ma. I’ve informed on you”, this (re)viewer’s sympathies
were squarely with the accused murderess as opposed to the self-righteous
individual who had instigated a criminal investigation against her.
Similarly, I wasn’t going to argue against this former bean curd maker
and seller as well as wife of a school principal’s bitter suggestion of
it being so, at least in this particular instance, that: “Raise a son,
and you’ve brought up resentment”.
All this is not to say though that there’s no
foundation whatsoever for the case that ended up being built against the
accused woman. What muddies the waters morally, even if not legally,
though is that: For one thing, she -- whose maiden name is Pu Feng Ying
(and who gets portrayed by the highly respected Mainland Chinese actress,
Siqin Gaowa) -- was being reported, then investigated, for a very serious
crime that occurred ten long years ago (in 1980, since the flashback as
well as snow filled THE DAY THE SUN TURNED COLD’s “present day” is 1990);
and, for another, the man (Guan Shichang is essayed by Ma Jing Wu) that
the twice married woman gets charged with of having fatally poisoned turns
out to have been her first husband (and father of her first three children,
the eldest of whom is her accuser).
In view of the childhood experiences that THE
DAY THE SUN TURNED COLD’s audience get shown being undergone by the generally
taciturn Guan Jian (who is played as an adult by Taiwanese actor Tuo Zhong
Hua and as a fourteen year old child by Shu Ziong), I would have thought
that he would have been far more inclined to take the side of his caring
mother than less warm father. After all, this Northern Chinese villager
-- who unquestionably had had a hard life -- it is who was prepared to
do such as take a beating for him (as well as labor in far from ideal conditions
to put food in his stomach, shoes on his feet and a smile on his face)
while the older and more educated parent it was whose method of punishing
his hooky playing son involved spanking him with a substantial as well
as hard looking piece of wood.
In the process of presenting this fact based story
(THE DAY THE SUN TURNED COLD is apparently based on a real life criminal
investigation) though, Yim Ho seems to be insinuating that -- for worse
rather than better -- certain post 1949 (Mainland) Chinese practices have
(overly) encouraged state interference into family matters and also that
traditional Chinese culture has taught people to be loyal to those who
they share the same surname (and line of descent) with above others (including
mothers or step-parents, however (more) kindly and loving they may be).
Hence this unsavory tale -- in which a wood cutter named Lin Dagui (and
portrayed by Wu Aizi) also has a part to play -- coming across as actually
having rather logically progressed and reached the denouement and conclusion
that it does.
THE DAY THE SUN TURNED COLD is an international
award winner (including for Best Film and Director at the 1994 Tokyo International
Film Festival) as well as possibly Yim Ho’s most widely distributed Hong
Kong film (E.g., it is the only one of them that’s available to rent at
my local (non-Chinatown) video store). While there’s no doubting
the pedigree of a dramatic work for which Ann Hui served as executive produce,
planner and also costume designer, I will admit that I found this impressively
lensed (by Hau Wing) effort difficult to like or even sincerely admire.
This is not least since it is as wintry cold plus didn’t (seem to try to)
move me as much as “Red Dust” -- my favorite movie of the art house (leaning)
auteur’s mere three that I’ve thus far checked out, and with which this
offering looks to have shared a couple of locations -- was blood red warm
plus successfully appealed to my heart as well as mind.
My rating for this film: 7.