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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "The Spring River Flows East" or "Tears of the Yang-Tse" or "Yi jiang chun shui xiang dong liu")


directed by Chusheng Cai, Junli Zheng

China 1947


Often cited as one of the masterpieces of Chinese cinema, The Spring River Flows East is an epic and tragic melodrama set in Shanghai and Chungking around the time of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Part one, Eight War-Torn Years, tells the heart-rending story of a working-class couple, Sufen (Bai Yang) and Zhang Zhongliang (Tao Jin), who marriage is torn apart when the war forces Zhongliang to flee from Shanghai to Chungking. Part two, The Dawn, sees Zhongliang return to Shanghai. His fortunes transformed, he has married into a wealthy bourgeois family but his world is undone by a chance meeting with the now-destitute Sufen.


The second Peak Film Industries production (after 8,000 Li) was this epic melodrama released in two parts: Eight Years of Turmoil and Before and After Dawn. Idealistic night school teacher Zhang (Tao Jin, terrific) marries factory worker Sufen (Bai Yang, too glamorous!) in Shanghai in 1931. When the Japanese invasion begins, he goes off to the front lines with the Red Cross - but winds up in Chungking, where he subsides into drink and self-pity. Gradually he reinvents himself as a businessman and marries a society hostess, while his real family, evicted by the Japanese, starves in a squatter camp. This was political dynamite at the time, and it stands up remarkably well as a Dickensian saga rhyming one family's tragedy with the nation's fate. The staginess of the dialogue scenes is offset by the visual eloquence of the rest. The director credit properly belongs to Zheng Junli; co-author Cai Chusheng was reportedly too scared of the KMT censors to show up on the set.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE


Theatrical Release: Unknown


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DVD Review: BFI - Region 2 - PAL

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Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 2:58:42 (4% PAL speedup)

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.26 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio Mandarin, Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio (192kbps)
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:

Aspect Ratio: - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• A Stilted City. Chungking. China (1930, 1:26): a rare glimpse of the ancient city on the banks of the Yangtze River

DVD Release Date: February 20th, 2017
Keep Case

Chapters 12





I'm sure most are wondering why this 3-hour epic film is not being released on Blu-ray. I don't know - unless BFI only has access to an SD source and/or the elements provided were not suitable for 1080P. This is similar to their 2015 DVD of Spring in a Small Town - restored by the China Film Archive, as part of the Digital Restoration Project.

The image quality is generally strong with a few instances of damaged sequences (see last capture) or faint surface scratches. Contrast is surprisingly rich throughout most of the film and the image can frequently look excellent with strong detail. While the lack of consistency in  the video is readily apparent, it didn't impinge upon my viewing to any strong degree. I also wouldn't say artifacts and digitization were a prevalent issue. It is divided into two parts (about 1.5 hours each) with the second looking superior.

Audio is likewise imperfect; lossy and inconsistent - a Dolby mono transfer occasionally sounding scattered with predictable limitations. There are optional English subtitles on the Region 2 PAL disc.

The only extra is the 1.5 minute long A Stilted City. Chungking. China from 1930 (also found on BFI's China With A Movie Camera DVD). It is a rare glimpse of the ancient city on the banks of the Yangtze River. No booklet to my knowledge.

An important classic of Chinese cinema and, without seeking complaints of a lack of BD, it was great to see in such a strong quality. A Blu-ray would have been ideal if more for the space to include supplements. Or like the previous releases of this classic - perhaps spreading it over two dual-layered DVD discs. It's a pretty gut-wrenching film experience. One I'm not likely to forget soon - this is a keeper... recommended!

  - Gary Tooze


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