Chinese director Zhang Yimou is to his country’s film industry what Kurosawa is to Japan, Satyajit Ray to India. His movies, pictorially bewitching and culturally trenchant, open China up for us cinematically, while his star (Gong Li) is a face for her nation: radiant, mysterious, ambivalent. The 1990 Ju Dou (BRAVO Monday at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m.; Tuesday at 12:30 p.m.) is one of Zhang’s breakthrough pictures, is a dazzling, disturbing tale of infidelity and murder in a dye factory.
He Ping’s exquisite 1994 Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker (BRAVO Monday at 7 p.m. and Tueday at 1 a.m.) takes us to northern China at the turn of the century, where the Cai family rules over vast territory, enriched by manufacturing firecrackers. Alas, it has come to pass that there is no longer a Cai male heir, which means that at 19 the beautiful Chun Zhi (Ning Jing) has assumed severe male attire, sworn never to marry and is always addressed as master. Then she hires an itinerant painter (Wu Gang) to decorate all 72 of her palace doors. Mutual attraction is instantaneous.
In Johnny Mnemonic (FOX Tuesday at 8 p.m.), set in 2021, Keanu Reeves plays a courier who transports nefarious top-secret corporate information in his chip-enhanced, mega-storage capacity noggin. He has made room for the info by dumping most of his own memory, which may or may not explain why Johnny is such a blank. But do the filmmakers realize how blank this hero is? The result is a glum, punchy 1995 blowout.
It’s hard to get caught up in the decidedly misfired 1995 The Net (FOX Wednesday at 8 p.m.), which stars Sandra Bullock as a hotshot computer dweeb so ensconced in cyberculture that there’s only one person in the whole of L.A. County who can reliably identify her.
Reaching for the Moon (AMC Thursday at 4:30 a.m.) is a minor but enjoyable 1931 romantic comedy set on an ocean liner and starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Bebe Daniels and featuring eye-poping Art Deco sets--and Bing Crosby.
JFK (KCOP Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m.) benefits from Oliver Stone’s bravura style but fails to persuade as a credible depiction of the assassination of John F. Kennedy as a conspiracy while dubiously turning New Orlean D.A. Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) into a hero while further maligning gay New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones, who is thankfully amusing).
Lifeboat (KCET Saturday at 9 p.m.), Alfred Hitchcock’s clever 1944 diversion from a John Steinbeck story, stars Tallulah Bankhead at the principal survivor of a shipwreck.