霍元甲 (Huò Yuánjiǎ, international title: Fearless), is a biopic about Huò Yuánjiǎ, one of the greatest Chinese martial artists, and a key character in the transformation of traditional martial arts into modern sports. The film stars Jet Li (李连杰) and, although it has some striking combat scenes, those scenes, and the tale of Huò's life, are supposed to be but an aspect of the transformation of China from a backward, feudal society under the Qīng, into a modern country — although, frankly, the martial arts part of the film is what I liked best!
The Painted Veil is a beautiful romance involving an English couple made up of two very different persons who go through life's travails before they finally realise how much they love each other. It is a very moving film, with a classic direction although somewhat slow, and I dearly recommend it to the romantically inclined.
Two very different films, but I am mentioning them in the same post because they are both set in early 20th century China, at the time of the big social upheavals that led to China's independence from Western encroachment. Could that be a new trend in world cinema?