A wonderfully flawed film
To the best of my knowledge, Horatio Alger did not speak Chinese.
Yet there he sits, lurking behind almost every word of Liu Cheng, father of the fictional violin prodigy, iaochun, upon whom the wonderfully flawed film “Together” is based.
The struggles, the disappointments, the triumphs – they’re all there. The American Dream is held up as something no longer American, but universal. Triumph over travail – it’s a human theme as old as the hills.
And the dust shows even through the hauntingly beautiful music that propels the film.
“Together” is wonderful because of its beauty. The snapshots of Beijing city life and the frictions of class offer a highly subtle but remarkably deep glimpse into a society that somehow manages to teeter along the tightrope of communist capitalism.
Professor Yu, the vaunted teacher Liu Cheng so desperately courts for his son, inhabits a sleek product of modern-world amenities. His chrome faucets, sofas and television grate with the images of coal-burning stoves heating the apartment of iaochun’s first musical patron, Professor Jiang.
The country/city dichotomy is touched on repeatedly as Cheng is often ridiculed for his “country bumpkin” ways.
But “Together” is flawed due to its relative predictability. Thankfully, the finale offers a small twist along with the impressive violin playing to relieve us from the total groans it might otherwise have elicited.
Additionally, there are spotty bits of dialogue that seem to have no real thematic value and some acting is so melodramatic as to almost be comical. The soft, glowing white light designed to infuse particularly poignant moments with further drama is overused, distracting and bland.
In the end, it’s the music that holds the film together.
In movies heavily dependent on classical tunes, there is the omnipresent danger of ill-chosen pieces. “Together” avoids that. The soundtrack is chock full of technically brilliant pieces that satisfy musically at the same time they impress.
“Together” is a pleasure to watch. It tells a story, mixes some wonderful music with occasionally beautiful scenes and sufficiently entertains. In some way though, I wasn’t left totally satisfied.
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