“Nothing compares to the Party’s benevolence
Chairman Mao is dearer than father and mother
There’s nothing as good as socialism
No ocean as deep as class feeling
Maoist Thought is revolution’s treasure trove
Whoever opposes it, we take as our enemy”
They should sing that little number at every wedding. To Live begins in the 1940’s with Fugui and Jiazhen Xu played by Ge You and Gong Li respectively. They live in a mansion and have a daughter. Fugui frequents a gambling establishment that has a puppet show for entertainment. His wife keeps telling him to stop gambling, but soon enough he loses it all and is forced to give up the mansion.
Fugui goes to the man he lost the mansion to in order to take out a loan, but instead he’s given the puppet show equipment. Thus, begins Fugui’s career as a puppet master. He does reasonably well for himself until one night a bayonet rips through the sheet behind which he and his men perform. It’s time for the showdown between the nationalists and the communists. Fugui begins with the nationalists, but after waking up in a killing field, courtesy of the communists, he soon winds up entertaining them instead. Coming home he is now in communist China, his daughter can’t speak and is largely deaf (human illness for government illness), and thankfully he lost that mansion and wound up with the communists because they are now a working class family who served during the revolution.
From here on the story follows Mao’s continuing madness and it’s effects on the people of China up to and including the 1960’s as represented by this families experiences. It’s similar to The Blue Kite, but it has better actors and the greater funding really made a difference. Both films are banned in China and they are both well worth your time. I highly recommend To Live.