It is 1911 in northern China. The head of the Cai family, makers of fireworks, has died without a male heir, so his beautiful 19-year-old daughter Chun Zhi has become director of the factory. She cannot ever marry (to keep outsiders from getting involved in plant ownership), and she is addressed as "The Master" and even dresses as a man -- though this only accentuates her beauty. A young itinerant painter is hired to paint the many doors of the plant, and the two become enamored of each other. In secret he paints a portrait of her which she discovers in a tense scene of wild emotions held in check. A jealous foreman notices these developments, and "The Master's" authority begins to crumble. The only way to restore order is through a fireworks contest -- a duel of skill and timing. This gorgeous film reminds one of Zhang Yimou's most romantic films (Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern) -- not so surprising since Zhang's cameraman Yang Lun and composer Zhao Jiping worked on it. Although the plot is a bit contrived and ends rather loudly and suddenly, most of the film is lovely and moving.
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The review of this Movie prepared by David Loftus