A masterpiece amazingly ahead of its time, this quietly erotic, melancholic drama observes the tensions between a married woman and her ex-lover. Set in a secluded, run-down house, the film is a psychological exploration of the female protagonist Zhou Yuwen and her intricate relationships with her sickly husband, Dai Liyan, and her former lover, Zhang Zhichen, a doctor who unexpectedly comes for a visit. Communist historiography censured the film for its petit-bourgeois “decadence,” its ideological “backwardness” and its alleged “narcotic effect” on the audience at a time of war. Since the 1980s, however, it has been critically acclaimed as the best Chinese film of all time and a classic example of “Eastern” cinema.
—J. Hoberman, The Village Voice