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Also Opening: 'Postmen'

Friday, November 19, 2004; Page WE34

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POSTMEN IN THE MOUNTAINS (Unrated, 90 minutes)

There's one particularly lovely image among the many in "Postmen in the Mountains," a simple tale of a veteran mail carrier in remote China (Teng Rujun) who, before retiring, must walk one last training route with his son and replacement (Liu Ye). As the two stand atop a mountain ridge midway through their arduous, 122-kilometer round trip, the son tosses a paper airplane, which drifts slowly on the wind into the green valley below them. As a metaphor for the delicate yet powerful ability of a piece of mailed paper to touch someone over great distances, it's beautiful visual poetry. At the same time, it's an image whose resonance is likely to be lost on the generation of young viewers that has grown up with e-mail replacing snail-mail. Beyond the encomium to the noble work carried out by postal workers everywhere, though, director Huo Jianqi's film is also a touching father-son story, in which a single journey serves to bring together two distant people, but in their case without the use of a stamp. Fearful of his old man, whom he never really knew growing up, thanks to the demands of a postman's job, the son finally comes to know his father as if for the first time, as the elder mail carrier imparts his deep sense of duty, honor and kindness to the young man. On one level, it's a reconciliation of sorts, as well as a coming-of-age film. Most of all, it's a love letter to the myriad ways, large and small, that mail handlers change lives the world over. Contains a single, mild vulgarity. In Mandarin with English subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Michael O'Sullivan


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