Change and a city in China. In Chengdu, factory 420 is being pulled down to make way for multi-story buildings with luxury flats. Scenes of factory operations, of the workforce, and of ...
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A town in Fengjie county is gradually being demolished and flooded to make way for the Three Gorges Dam. A man and woman visit the town to locate their estranged spouses, and become witness to the societal changes.
Little pocket thief Wu never got away from the streets like his friends did. He realises that he is alone, as his old buddy doesn't invite him for his wedding. When he falls in love with a ... See full summary »
China's greatest living filmmaker Jia Zhangke (Platform, The World) travels with acclaimed painter Liu Xiaodong from China to Thailand as they meet everyday workers in the throes of social ... See full summary »
An ancestral city; through its delicious botanical garden and its branched canals, we observe the clues and traces of its ancient culture. Two couples of men and women, former lovers, meet ... See full summary »
A cook living in Beijing, whose employment is coming to an end, plans to return home to his rural village for the New Year. He approaches several of his old friends, also working in the ... See full summary »
Change and a city in China. In Chengdu, factory 420 is being pulled down to make way for multi-story buildings with luxury flats. Scenes of factory operations, of the workforce, and of buildings stripped bare and then razed, are inter-cut with workers who were born in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s telling their stories - about the factory, which manufactured military aircraft, and about their work and their lives. A middle-aged man visits his mentor, now elderly; a woman talks of being a 19-year-old beauty there and ending up alone. The film concludes with two young people talking, each the child of workers, each relaying a story of one visit to a factory. Times change.Written by
During a press conference at the 61st Cannes Film Festival for the film, Zhangke Jia, Joan Chen and Tao Zhao observed a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the 2008 devastating earthquake in China. The film was shot in Chengdu, in Sichuan province where the earthquake struck. See more »
This review is primarily in response to Barry Freed's, whose take on the film is so wildly different from mine it makes me wonder if we saw the same movie.
I LOVED this movie. I think the quasi-documentary style is wholly winning and adds a lot to the story. As far as defending Jia's decision not to do a "traditional" documentary, I guess I just have to give him the benefit of the doubt. If he had wanted to do a "traditional" documentary, then he would have done so. I feel that Jia is an accomplished enough artist that I can assume he has an instinctive sense of what will best serve a particular story. Clearly, in this instance, he decided on a fact/fiction "blend", and to my mind, he made the right call.
While watching this, I couldn't help but think of Werner Herzog and his theory of "ecstatic truth" ("I know that by making a clear distinction between "fact" and "truth" in my films, I'm able to penetrate into a deeper stratum of truth that most films never attain. This deep inner truth inherent in cinema can be discovered only by not being bureaucratically, politically, and mathematically correct." - W. Herzog). While I'm not (necessarily) making a comparison between Zhang-ke and Herzog, I feel that they are very much after the same thing. Whether an essential truth can be best conveyed using actors or non-actors, using a documentary or drama approach, etc. are questions that both directors obviously struggle with, and I feel that they have come to similar conclusions. They (to my mind) have opted to fuse the two approaches, in an attempt to remove intellectual and emotional barriers between the people on-screen and the people in the audience. And more often than not, that approach works, and works in a very powerful way.
Finally, I thought the performances, without exception, were utterly devastating and mind-blowing. I don't know what Jia does to his actors to get performances of that caliber, but whatever it is, he needs to keep it up. I think this is an excellent companion-piece to "Still Life", and a beautiful addition to his body of work. Masterful.
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