Chinese Cinema

24 City, 2008

In its portrait of a culture on the verge of erasure with the advent of redevelopment and gentrification, Jia Zhang-ke’s 24 City shares kinship with José Luis Guerín’s En Construcción, reflecting the idea of a city built from the rubble of abandoned, forgotten histories. Interweaving first person and composite, fictional interviews with workers, friends, and… read more »

Still Life, 2006

Perhaps what is most striking about Jia Zhang-ke’s latest digital feature, Still Life, is its unexpected maturity, a marked evolution away from capturing the sad, eccentric tales of youthful indirection and cultural anachronism of contemporary Chinese life under an often contradictory, dual economy system that defined his earlier films towards a more somber – and… read more »

The World, 2004

Marking Jia’s first state-approved film, The World immediately bears the visual imprint of its “official”, non-underground status in its highly polished mise-en-scène: the elaborate pageantry of a flamboyant stage spectacle, ornate costuming, original electronica background compositions, and whimsical, interstitial animation sequences. Following the lives of a group of young adults working at an Epcot Center-like… read more »

Unknown Pleasures, 2002

An early scene in Unknown Pleasures shows a young man named Xiao Ji (Wu Qiong) riding his motorcycle on the way to town and, upon reaching the back room of a nondescript building, unexpectedly catches the curious sight of a man dressed in leisure clothes as he passionately sings an operatic melody – complete with… read more »

Platform, 2000

Platform opens to an appropriately temporally indeterminate sight of a bustling, crowded backstage of a provincial theater as a group of itinerant performers await the commencement of their traveling cultural education program that equally extols the country’s technological and social progress made possible by the Communist Revolution and celebrates its principal architect, Chairman Mao Zedong…. read more »

Everlasting Regret, 2005

Chronicling the life and romantic trajectory of a postwar beauty queen named Qiyao (Sammi Cheng) over the span of forty years, Stanley Kwan’s epic period drama, Everlasting Regret is a film about unrealized ambition and missed opportunity in more ways than one. The film cuts broad, elliptical swaths across Chinese post-revolution history through Qiyao’s childhood… read more »

Kekexili: Mountain Patrol, 2004

In an early episode in Kekexili: Mountain Patrol, retired army officer turned volunteer poacher tracking commander Ritai (Duobuji) explains to a Beijing reporter Ga Yu (Zhang Lei) that according to custom, a Tibetan native would point his knife inward when cutting his meal at the dinner table. It is a seemingly anecdotal comment on cultural… read more »

Summer Palace, 2006

Recalling the resigned regret of Lee Chang-dong’s Peppermint Candy (albeit less potent) and Stanley Kwan’s Everlasting Regret in its elliptical intersection of personal and (implicitly political) national history, Lou Ye’s sprawling epic, Summer Palace is an adept and thoughful, if largely perfunctory and tenuous survey of late twentieth century contemporary history from the parallel perspectives… read more »

The Go Master, 2006

In distilling the life of one of the greatest (if not the greatest) Go players in history, Wu Qingyuan (Chen Chan) – an ethnic Chinese who immigrated to Japan (where he is referred to by the Japanese reading of his name, Go Seigen) in order to continue his pursuit of the game through officially sponsored… read more »

Springtime in a Small Town, 2002

Tian Zhuangzhung’s Springtime in a Small Town is a visually sublime and nostalgic film that is somewhat reminiscent of Satyajit Ray’s exquisite Charulata in understatedly depicting the repercussions of emotional betrayal. The film takes place in the ruins of a large rural mansion in postwar China, as a physically fragile aristocrat (Wu Jun) is reunited… read more »

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