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Devils on the Doorstep (2000)

Cast: Jiang Wen, Jiang Wen, Teruyuki Kagawa, more...
Director: Jiang Wen, Jiang Wen
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Homevision
Genre: Comedies, Foreign, China
Running Time: 139 min.
Languages: Japanese
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

Renowned actor Jiang Wen directs this sweeping look at a small Chinese village located near the Great Wall during the closing days of WWII. As Japanese soldiers march up and down the village's main thoroughfare, Ma Dasan (Wen) is making love with his widowed lover Yu'er (Jiang Hongbo). Suddenly, there is a knock at the door and a gun at Ma's head. He is informed that for the next week he is to house two gagged and bound prisoners, one a fanatical Japanese soldier, the other a Chinese translator -- and to interrogate the pair. The village elders uneasily question the two, while the translator intentionally mistranslates the epithets and insults from the soldier. When the Japanese troops do not return to pick up the prisoners, the villagers panic and order Ma to execute them. Ma, in turn, panics and tries to hide the cantankerous duo in the Great Wall -- that is until the villagers discover his ruse and almost lynch him, despite a strongly worded defense by Yu'er. Six months later, the villagers become increasingly worried about boarding these prisoners, lest they all be branded collaborators. This film won the prestigious Grand Prix at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Jonathan Crow, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

A Great War Film by talltale May 1, 2005 - 5:19 PM PDT
4 out of 5 members found this review helpful
No less a luminary than Steven Soderbergh introduces this hilarious, shocking and shockingly fine Chinese movie on the DVD. But don't watch Steve until after you've finished the film; he says he doesn't want to ruin it for you and then proceeds to do just that (if the element of surprise is at all important to your viewing pleasure). Soderbergh raves about DEVILS ON THE DOORSTEP and, though I am not a great fan of his work, I must agree with his taste here and add this to those few war films (including Spain's "Guerreros," Italy's "El Alamein," and Korea's "Tae Guk Gi") that deserve the "masterpiece-or-near" appellation.

"Devils" is set in China toward the end of the Japanese occupation in WWII and is directed by and stars one of that country's great actors Wen Jiang. He's filmed this in black-and-white and uses some of the best close-up photography I've seen in ages: vivid, immediate, compelling. As good an actor as Jiang is, he elicits equally fine performances from the rest of his cast and tells a story that, finally, portrays neither the Japanese or the Chinese as the kind of people you'd want as neighbors. (Extending that idea, you may look in the mirror afterward watching this film and not be certain you'd want you for a neighbor, either.) That may be why Jiang and his movie were taken to task by the Chinese government.

That the film lasts 2 hours and 20 minutes yet does not for one of those minutes feel too long is perhaps the highest praise I can give--that and the fact that, after watching it, I could think of no other film to which it can easily be compared. Jiang has directed only one other movie ("In the Heat of the Sun"), which I don't believe is yet on DVD. Even if he makes no more, "Devils" alone should open those pantheon doors.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.91)
35 Votes
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Cannes Film Festival & More - 2000
Official Selection, Certain Regards... and more. Here is a bit more information on the films screened at the Cannes. I have attempted to list all the films that were considered for an award as well as any special screenings.
Best of WW2
Great movies in, about, and around World War II. And no I did not 'forget' Saving Private Ryan.

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