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Critic's Pick

'Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker'

June 23, 1996|Kevin Thomas

He Ping's exquisite 1994 film takes us to northern China at the turn of the century, where the Cai family rules over vast territory. The source of the family fortune may seem surprising: the humble firecracker, which we learn is used not only for celebrations but also for breaking up iced-over rivers and, most important of all, as medicine formulated from its ingredients. 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, right) has assumed severe male attire, sworn never to marry and is always addressed as master. Then she hires an itinerant painter (Wu Gang, left) to decorate all 72 of her palace doors. Mutual attraction is instant and the movie unfolds (Cinemax Wednesday at 11:30 p.m.).

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