The Thoughts of Chairman Mao (Starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li)

The Independent watches the patriotic blockbuster Jianguo Daye (The Founding of the Republic):

Mao is played by the startlingly similar Tang Guoqiang, who emphasises his “Great Helmsman” side, a hagiography of the provincial Hunanese turned international revolutionary hero. He is an avuncular father figure, a hero who cares deeply for his troops and the people, devoid of the ruthlessness described by some biographers, most notably Jung Chang and Jon Halliday in their 2005 book Mao: The Unknown Story.

Co-directed by Han Sanping, head of the state film agency China Film, and Huang Jianxin, the movie blends the glorification of Communist China with strong, often sophisticated, drama. At one stage we see Mao teaching children to read the phrase “I am Chinese” and it could be a scene from a film from the 1950s. There are lots of policy debates and unadorned party politics, which makes for clunky viewing as characters outline the formation of endless committees.

But there are also moments of subtlety and what appear to be hidden political messages. In one telling scene, Mao arrives in Beijing, then known as Beiping, and is unable to find a shop to buy cigarettes. The shopkeepers have all fled in fear, and Mao makes a brief speech – as he cadges a ciggie from one of the Politburo – about how it’s important not to chase out the capitalists or production will suffer. A sentiment familiar to a generation reared in New China, but hardly a doctrinaire Marxist-Leninist statement.

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