Gong Li holds court

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 June, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 June, 1995, 12:00am

THE British documentary Big Fish In China (Pearl, Sunday 11.45pm) is a nice addendum to The Story Of Qui Ju (World, 9.30pm). It was filmed over six months in China and Germany and got closer to director Zhang Yimou and leading lady Gong Li than anyone thought possible.

Zhang is a private man, not known for loquaciousness in the presence of the media. Li enjoys her stardom more, but speaks no English. As this film shows, she's just a karaoke girl at heart, doing a turn in a dingy Chinese restaurant for Zhang's birthday.

It was made when Zhang and Li were still an item, an affair which scandalised China. They have since parted.

The Story Of Qui Ju was the couple's fifth film together, after Red Sorghum, the action thriller Codename Cougar, Judou and Raise The Red Lantern. It is more literary than the others, but continues the 'Fifth Generation' tradition of emphasising visual and aural qualities over the more usual dramatic elements.

Zhang's motivation comes from the Cultural Revolution, years he spent in the country learning from the peasants of Shanxi province, and as a labourer in a spinning mill. He later sold his blood to buy a camera and in 1978 was turned away from the Beijing Film Academy for being too old.

Based on Chen Yuanbin's novel The Wan Family's Lawsuit, Qui Ju is a courtroom drama Chinese-style, examining bureaucracy and the way it often has nothing to do with people's real needs.

Li, restrained and inscrutable as always, is the simple but determined village woman who demands an apology from the village chief for beating up her husband (Chang Yimou, star of A Terracotta Warrior). When it is not forthcoming, she sues.

MICHAEL Cimino's epic (three-hour) The Deer Hunter (World, 11.45pm) is traumatic and wholly memorable. It is arguably the definitive Vietnam film, despite criticism from some quarters that it is obtuse - presumably you have to guess the significance of the hunting scenes - and racist in its portrayal of the Vietnamese.

It is neatly divided into three acts, following a trio of close friends (Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage) from the eve of their tour of duty in Vietnam to the resumption of their interrupted lives.

A CHARIOT race, a javelin duel, some military clashes and a mass burning at the stake should be enough to keep you watching The Fall Of The Roman Empire (Pearl, 1.05pm). The first hour is distinguished, but the most interesting character is killed off early. The rest of the film follows the feeble attempts of Marcus Aurelius' mad son Commodus to stop Rome falling apart at the seams. A good cast which includes Alec Guinness, James Mason, Sophia Loren, Christopher Plummer and Omar Sharif.

THE Dorsey brothers play well and try hard in The Fabulous Dorseys (STAR Plus, 2.00pm), a slight and comedic biopic of themselves, band-leading brothers who gave the world Marie and Green Eyes.

The best the film has to offer though, is a jam session with Art Tatum, Charlie Barnet, Ziggy Elman and Ray Bauduc, all familiar names to jazz fans.

FILMS on Cable Movie Channel: Heaven Station (5.00pm). Japanese director Masanobu Deme's saga of an unfortunate woman (Sayuri Yoshinaga) who, in her search for true love, marries two unpleasant men and kills them both.

Cadence (7.00pm). A Sheen family enterprise, directed by and starring Martin, with Charlie in a supporting role. He is a US soldier who lands in a West German brig, the only white prisoner among a group of blacks.

Conflict, however, centres on prison warden Martin, who is slowly coming apart at the seams. The only real highlight is an impromptu rendition by the prisoners of Sam Cooke's Back On The Chain Gang.

Fatal Encounter (9.00pm). Overwrought and somewhat sensational Hong Kong production tries to examine AIDS through the eyes of a Chinese prostitute who flees to the territory and passes the virus to a philandering truck driver.