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'Not One Less'

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 17, 2000

   


    'Not One Less' Wei Minzhi (right) plays a persistent schoolteacher in "Not One Less." (Sony Pictures Classics)
Zhang Yimou's story about a 13-year-old substitute teacher, Wei Minzhi, sent to take care of a group of schoolchildren in the provinces, has its charms. It's a postneorealist film, in which amateur performers play themselves. Wei Minzhi, for example, is the performer and character's name. In the movie, Wei Minzhi is forbidden to allow one more student to drop out of the Shuiquan Primary School while they're in her care; in China, many young students leave school early to work. She's promised an extra 10 yuan in pay if she succeeds. So when 10-year-old Zhang Huike (same name in real life), the class's most mischievous student, leaves to work in the city, Wei Manzhi is determined to bring him back. Her odyssey to find him becomes the central thrust of the movie.

At first, the picture is moving. And the two principals are charming live wires. But Yimou's film becomes a flag-waving piece about the great friendly collective heart of the Chinese people. And suddenly charm turns to quasi-commie didacticism.

NOT ONE LESS (G, 102 minutes) – Contains nothing objectionable except agitprop. In Mandarin with subtitles.


© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company


 

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