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In the mystical,subtropical province of Guizhou,there is a small county clinic surrounded by fog.At the Kaili clinic,there are two doctors who live quiet,lonely lives.One of the doctors,Chen Sheng,embarks on a journey by train to find his nephew, who had been abandoned by his brother. On the way to Zhenyuan ,Chen Sheng came across a place called Dang Mai, where time seemed to flow both forwards and backwards, the lives of the local people a complete mystery. He experiences his own past and future,lending him insight into his own life. Once Chen arrives at Zhen Yuan, rather than approaching his nephew, he watches secretly from a distance, he is surprised to find that his nephew flourished in the absence of his father, and decides not to interfere in his life. Before he had left Kaili, he had promised his colleague that he w ould stop by the home of her former lover to deliver some items, but upon his arrival, he is told that the man had passed away, and he leaves the box of mementos ...
+++Chen is a doctor-he has a irresponsible brother who mistreats his son. As the movie progresses snippets of information about his previous life are dropped, almost casually, either through dialogue or flashbacks. Indeed, one theme is the temporal intermixture.
It's interesting for me to have insights into Chinese modern lifestyle shown directly through the street life (The Iron Ministry, Blind Shaft). Hence we see people going along with their business, poor people or desolated ones. Also, we see superstition, tedium, old traditions, appliances that don't work and vain attempts to fix them.
The second part is almost a different film. We leave the city, often grim, with glum buildings and we enter a mostly enchanting mountain area. As a reviewer mentioned we have a long shot as in Russian's Ark by Sokurov. Perhaps this technique is associated with filming in a way also seen in music videos: several young people, the same ones, continuously pop out and into the scene. The twirling sequence culminates by Chen revealing last piece of the story of his life to a hairdresser.
Now, the director pulls out an interesting feat. People borrow to each other moments of their lives and some people substitute for others. It is like being in a dream, which is constructed subtly and as if without strain. Examples: the flashlight story of Chen's coworker reappears in the story he tells to hairdresser; the latter is a substitute for Chen's ex-wife; the nephew is substituted by a motorcycle driver he meets who has the same name, draws watches, has a watch painted on his wrist, is bullied and to whom Chen offers protection-all these exactly like with his child nephew. Even more, two casually introduced persons share same nickname, Idiot.
And yes we share some more themes, more common in Chinese movies: lost love, responsibility toward family, choices to correct fatalities that lead to more tragedy.
---The camera filming the long shot has several failures, such as jerking or lack of focus. I can't say the movie is a masterpiece and it feels the debuting director wanted to express too much. But he made a compelling, interesting feature.
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