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Director:Gu Changwei
Cast:Zhang Jingchu, Li Feng, Lu Yulai
Release Date:2008
Genre:Drama, Foreign

By Steve Erickson | Posted 4/2/2008

The directorial debut of veteran cinematographer Gu Changwei (The Gingerbread Man, Farewell My Concubine), Peacock recalls the early work of Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien both in its style--like Hou, Gu prefers long shots to closeups--and approach to storytelling. Set in the immediate aftermath of China's Cultural Revolution and taking place over seven years, it revolves around the Gao family. Returning several times to the image of the clan eating on its balcony, Peacock devotes itself to the lives of each of the Gao's three children: dreamy daughter Weihong (Zhang Jingchu), the mentally challenged and obese Weiguo (Li Feng), and Weiqiang (Lu Yulai), who narrates the movie. Despite the setting, there's no political agenda to the movie, just a careful devotion to the small accumulation of life's details. In clumsier hands, the story could've become a soap opera, but Gu's sensibility is too elliptical to allow that. The slow pace and 142-minute running time allow you to feel like you're partaking in the family's lives as they happen. Despite a melancholy tone and a high level of casual cruelty--much of it coming from the Gao siblings' parents--Peacock never sinks into miserabilism. Although powerful, the ending does feel a bit arbitrary and rushed--I wouldn't have minded if Peacock continued another half-hour.

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