American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
There is such a tactile pleasure in the visuals of the new Chinese movie “Blush” that only after I thought back carefully through the story did I realize how much better it could have been. It tells the stories of two prostitutes whose brothel is closed after the communist victory of 1949, the way the new collectivist society changes them, and the way their lives become entwined with the same man. This is a big subject, but the film treats it more like a melodramatic 1940s Hollywood weeper.
Still, what a wonderful look it has! Like almost all recent films from mainland China, “Blush” is so visually sensuous that looking is almost enough. The camera style hasn't been beaten down into lazy TV formulas: The point of view is always thoughtfully chosen, the backgrounds are as important as the foregrounds, and camera movements advance the drama by revealing additional elements.
And look at the locations and the use of color. There is a shot in the film that shows a jumble of very old rooftops, jammed at crazy angles toward one another. The stone tiles are dark blue-gray or black, and completely fill the screen. Two women escape from an upper window onto the roof, their bright dresses a splash of color that helps us see and feel everything else.
Later in the film, the women meet again. One has fled from her own wedding to chase the other down narrow streets. Again, there is the same palette: the old gray stones, damp and dark, and the color of the dresses. These shots and many others (a bridge over a stream through Beijing, a canal with houses built close by, the interiors of ornate old houses that have been much lived in, a courtyard with views into living quarters) are like living, tactile paintings.