Metascore
65

Generally favorable reviews - based on 22 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 22
  2. Negative: 0 out of 22
  1. Sweet, funny, sad and profound -- the sort of film that becomes more remarkable when you realize it's based on someone's real life.
  2. An oddity: an adaptation of a popular novel co-written and directed by the novelist himself. It's also a fine, gentle film love story and a cinematic tribute to the power and manifold benefits of communications between different cultures and nations.
  3. A funny, sad and absolutely lovely film.
  4. For an exquisitely melancholy story steeped in a sense of the past as a succession of great waves of political, ideological and economic change, it's fitting that the movie should end with an underwater sequence. It looks like a dream of a memory of a place about to be wiped out by the next great flood of history.
  5. If the movie is straightforward and predictable in its attitude, it also exudes a sort of documentary lyricism.
  6. It's a fanciful tale, but the message is sweet - that the higher arts speak a universal language that transcends politics and ignorance.
  7. 75
    A meditation on literature, love and remembrance that is able to find humor and hope in the dark days of the Cultural Revolution.
  8. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    75
    In the end, it's a lovely little movie about very big things, and the smallness both illuminates it and keeps it from greatness.
  9. Enlightenment is good, Dai acknowledges. But the movie's more provocative assertion is the notion that ignorance was also a kind of bliss.
  10. It makes for an unusual angle on the era, and a passionate paean to the power of books, ideas and art.
  11. 70
    By turns merry, tough-minded and sweetly nostalgic.
  12. Reviewed by: Ed Park
    70
    Though the film lacks some of the paper incarnation's subtlety, Dai's infidelity to his own text keeps things interesting. He busts the book's brief time frame, tweaks countless plot points, and tops it all off with a titanic metaphor not found in his own pages.
  13. Dai Sijie's tender, touching adaptation of his own novel of the same title.
  14. Reviewed by: David Stratton
    70
    A visually lush and very Westernized vision of life in a remote Chinese village in the early 1970s.
  15. 63
    Artfully designed to appeal to lovers of romance and books, but by the end of the film I was not convinced it knew much about either.
  16. 60
    Sure, Balzac meanders at too leisurely a pace. But the actors are charming; the story sweet
  17. The story is winning but the telling, with Dai adapting and directing from his own novel, is too sentimental in the long run.
  18. Cute and toothless as a kitten, Seamstress doesn't inspire the same kind of fervent devotion its principals feel when confronted with art, but it does make a pleasant enough diversion.
  19. 50
    Sijie mostly adapts his own work dryly and literally—the footage of the Chinese mountainside is breathtaking, but it's the only thing in the film with much depth.
  20. The film is beautifully shot and well-acted, but, like the book, it never achieves anything like the import of the stories that inspired it. Balzac is even a little dull, especially toward the end.
  21. Reviewed by: Patrick Z. McGavin
    50
    The ethereal private moments and inspired passages are beautifully shot by Jean-Marie Dreujou, but Dai never quite organizes the material dramatically, and the tone is too often jagged and disruptive.
  22. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    40
    Demonstrating just how different literature and filmmaking can be, filmmaker-turned-writer-turned filmmaker Dai Sijie botches an adaptation of his own best-selling short novel.
User Score
7.3

Generally favorable reviews- based on 9 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 6
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 6
  3. Negative: 1 out of 6
  1. Nov 2, 2011
    0
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. This movie is TERRIBLE and GULLIBLE. Just Fit for Crazy person!!! Communism, Communism, Communism!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Full Review »
  2. JulienK.
    Jul 15, 2009
    9
    An invaluably sad but exceptionally beautiful work of art realistically depicting instability and mutability of all things in modern life. An invaluably sad but exceptionally beautiful work of art realistically depicting instability and mutability of all things in modern life. It's inevitably fluid like nature of human evolution between one époque to another. I can feel ethereal touch of Author's filial love to his mother country china. It is easy to see that the Author was torn between his deep seated love for China and Ambition of prosperity on his chosen land (France) at the moment of his life time decision making. This is something that not many understand unless you are forced to leave from your homeland and love ones for a cause. I have left Japan , Kyoto and a noble born beloved fiancé along with almost all things I perceived exquisite at that time for an ambitious cause. Augmented by an outstanding soundtracks with his genius touch in a perfect synchronisation with emotion portrayed in screenplay. Since I have played harpsichord continuo part for Haendel's tragic opera such as Alcina, Otone and Radamisto for student soprano singersduring reharsals in the past, I can readily feel Author's masterful quality of refined artistic mind in every scene. This is a second film that I bought for my collection of Dai Sijie's works. I must admit that he is a genius of screenplay depicting moments of painful separation. Who else can reproduce so vividly on the screen with such poetic toutch today? Julien Kujo, Palo Alto, California. Full Review »
  3. ChadS.
    May 14, 2006
    7
    Rather than just watch two boys read from Balzac's "Cousin Bette", a more interesting strategy might've been to show us how two Rather than just watch two boys read from Balzac's "Cousin Bette", a more interesting strategy might've been to show us how two Chinese provincials would visualize period piece-France. We never really get a sense that these boys were transformed by an infusion of otherworldly words. With the tailor, we do. The way literature inspires him is when the film truly comes alive. For Luo (Kun Chen) and Ma (Ye Liu), we're absolutely sure that they love the Little Chinese Seamstress (Xun Chou), but as for Balzac, because the filmmaker inadequately shows us their passion for literature, they come off as poseurs who use the books as a tool of seduction. In the Dai Siije novel, you don't think about "Jules and Jim" in the sticks. Full Review »