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Chinese director Chen Kaige has made indelible
impressions in the West with films like Farewell
My Concubine and The
Emperor and the Assassin, large-scale productions that set well-realized personal
dramas against epic historical backgrounds. Together, while elegantly filmed, has
shrunk its perspective to present day China and an intimate story. It centers on 13 year
old Xiaochun, a gifted violinist whose father brings him from their home village to
Beijing in search of a good teacher, fame and fortune. It's the sort of story that might
be expected to end up with a triumphant concert scene and it does, but Chen is not one to
deliver gratuitous cliches. His finale (not to be disclosed here) has an unexpected, but
fully justified twist.
Young Xiaochun (Yun Tang) doesn't get a whole lot to say in Together, though he's on screen nearly the entire time. Presumably his shy inarticulateness is in inverse proportion to the expressiveness of his music making--and the classical music on the soundtrack is a great pleasure of the film. But Chun is a good listener and shrewdly observant. He has a catalytic effect on the people around him, particularly his first Beijing teacher, Professor Jiang (Zhiwen Wang), a reclusive depressive who gave up on life when he lost out on his first love. Chun, who is at the stage of adolescence when women and sex have become irresistibly fascinating, also befriends Lili (Hong Chen), a call girl who lives nearby.
Chun's father, Liu Cheng (Peiqi Liu), is utterly devoted to his son and his son's career. He's well meaning, obsequious, clumsy and provincial, but he's no fool. When he learns that the big competitions are won on the basis of influence rather than on the basis of the greatest talent, he inveigles a teacher of greater standing to take on his son as a student. Cheng carries a secret from the past, unknown to Chun, which provides an added fillip to the story.