China

Zhangke Jia – Xiaoshan huijia AKA Xiao Shan Going Home (1995)

Xiao Shan, a temporary worker at the Hongyuan Restaurant, has just been fired by his boss Zhao Guoqing. Deciding to leave Beijing and returns to his home in Anyang, he goes to see a series of people from his hometown who have also been living in Beijing -construction workers, train ticket scalpers, university students, attendant, prostitutes- but no one wants to go back with him. Dispirited and confused, he searches out one after another of his old friends who are still in Beijing. Finally he leaves his wild long hair, the symbol of his life in the city, at a roadside barber stand as his offering to Beijing. Seoul Independent Film Festival Read More »

Yimou Zhang – Hong gao liang AKA Red Sorghum [91min edit] (1988)

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Celebrated Mainland filmmaker Zhang Yimou brings his inimitable touch to Red Sorghum, a sumptuous drama set during 1930s China, just prior to the Japanese occupation. Jiu’er (Gong Li) is a young bride arranged to marry the leprous owner of a sorghum winery. But the leper dies, and Jiu’er takes over the winery, along with her lover (Jiang Wen), a burly rogue with a natural, rough charisma. Their rural lives are filled with struggle and even joy, but the invasion of the Japanese brings tragedy and blood to their doorsteps. Told in glorious shades of red, Red Sorghum is quintessential Zhang Yimou, and uses setting, cinematography, and stunning imagery to create characters and mood that are both iconic and recognizable. Gong Li and Jiang Wen both turn in revelatory performances. As both an anti-war film and a portrait of pre-Communist Chinese life, Red Sorghum is a compelling, powerful achievement from a true master of cinema. Read More »

Zhuangzhuang Tian – Lie chang zha sha AKA On The Hunting Ground (1984)

Tian Zhuangzhuang is perhaps the best known of [the Fifth Generation] for reviving and revitalizing a staple of the Chinese film industry — the “national minority” genre. Made to celebrate the solidarity of the Chinese people under the Communist regime, these films, often made by studios based in the minority areas themselves, showcased the songs, dances, customs, and patriotism of the non-Han community. Stories of liberation, they usually contrast the “backwardness” of traditional life before the Revolution with the benefits of Chinese Communist rule. Read More »

Cong Feng – Dr. Ma’s Country Clinic (2008)

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In the arid mountains of the remote and inaccessible Huangyangchuan, Gansu Province, a simple small countryside clinic welcomes the local sick and injured. Ma Bingcheng is a respected country doctor. Thanks to his good medical skills, day after day his waiting room is filled with patients wanting to consult him or get a prescription. His cramped country clinic is an open space where information and personal experiences intertwine, offering the audience a rare dissecting view of the lives and living conditions of the local farmers. Read More »

Hu Bo – Da xiang xi di er zuo AKA An Elephant Sitting Still (2018)

In the northern Chinese city of Manzhouli, they say there is an elephant that simply sits, unaffected by the pain and tribulations of the world at large. Manzhouli becomes an obsession for the protagonists of this film – a longed-for escape from the downward spiral in which they find themselves inextricably bound together. Among them is schoolboy, Bu, on the run after pushing Shuai down the stairs, who was bullying him previously. Bu’s classmate Ling has run away from her mother and fallen for the charms of her teacher. Shuai’s older brother Cheng feels responsible for the suicide of a friend. And finally there’s Mr. Wang, a sprightly pensioner whose son wants to offload him onto a home. In virtuoso visual compositions, the film tells the story of one single suspenseful day from dawn to dusk, when the train to Manzhouli is set to depart. Read More »

Bo Huang – The Island (2018)


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Chinese comedy superstar Huang Bo (“Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons”) makes a good first stab at directing with “The Island,” an entertaining if overlong dramedy about company workers splitting into rival factions after being shipwrecked on a desert island. This mix of broad humor, survivalist drama and romance opens brightly and ends with a bang but stutters a little in the middle. Huang’s name and a cast including box-office draws Shu Qi and Wang Baoqiang should ensure strong domestic business, while the universally accessible “Lord of the Flies”-like premise ought to help attract audiences in offshore markets. “The Island” opens in China, North America, and several other international territories on Aug. 10. Read More »

Yimou Zhang – Xingfu Shiguang aka Happy Times (2000)

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Synopsis: A man stretching the truth for his own sake soon begins doing the same for someone else, with increasingly complicated results, in this gentle comedy from China. Zhao (Zhao Benshan) is a guy in his early fifties who’s out of work but still wants to marry his girlfriend (Dong Lifan). However, his often cranky sweetheart thinks he runs a hotel, and Zhao is trying to keep the illusion alive with the help of his pal Li (Li Xuejian) by turning an abandoned bus into a “love hotel” for couples who lack privacy in their homes. But business isn’t all that good, since the old-fashioned Zhao asks unmarried couples to keep their doors open to ensure nothing untoward happens. As Zhao tries to convince his girlfriend to walk down the aisle with him — and struggles to raise the money she demands first — she introduces him to Wu Jing (Dong Jie), the blind teenage stepdaughter she inherited from her marriage to her now-deceased first husband. Read More »