China

Zhangke Jia – Zhantai AKA Platform (2000)

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Quote:
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. However, a cut to a shot of the company tour bus as the manager provides constructive criticism on the performance of the peasant troupe (apparently caused by inaccurate mimicking of train sounds by some members who have never seen a train in real life) begins to reveal the disparity between their state-commissioned, official message of national modernization and the reality of life in the rural provinces. Read More »

Anqi Ju – Shi ren chu chai le AKA Poet on a Business Trip (2015)

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In all its simplicity, a completely unique film, shot more than 10 years ago and only now edited. A poet sets off on a ‘business trip’ through inhospitable Xinjiang. The physically exhausting trip provides an existential brothel visit, bumping on bad roads and a glimpse of a disappearing world, but also 16 melancholy poems.

In 2002, Ju Anqi made a film about a tour by the poet Shu through Xinjiang, the most western-lying, autonomous Uyghur province of China. All that we know about Shu is that he plays a poet who sends himself on a business trip – an absurd, satirical starting point that sets the tone for the film.
For a variety of reasons, it was not until 2013 that Ju started editing the rough, lyrical material that he had shot in what is now a very restless Xinjiang: it’s like an excellent wine that has had time to mature. Structured around 16 poems which he wrote on the road, Shu’s physically exhausting journey takes him along endless rocky roads, passing shabby inns and through impressive landscapes from one prostitute to the next.
In its documentary authenticity, Poet on a Business Trip is also an historic document that exudes an atmosphere of loss, providing an unsentimental yet melancholy glimpse of a country in transition and a mirror for the existential irreversibility of time. Read More »

Chuan Lu – City of Life and Death AKA Nanking Nanking (2009)

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The third film from award-winning Fifth Generation director Lu Chuan (Kekexili: Mountain Patrol), City of Life and Death (Nanking Nanking) is a devastating account of the massacre that occurred during WWII when Japanese troops took the city of Nanjing in December 1937, a tragedy remembered as the Rape of Nanking. Shot completely in black and white, this powerful war drama unflinchingly captures the shocking violence and brutality of the Nanjing massacre, from the mass executions of POWs to the raping and slaughtering of civilians, while providing a deeply human portrait of both the victims and the perpetrators. Read More »

Fengliang Yang & Yimou Zhang – Ju Dou (1990)

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Synopsis:
A woman married to the brutal and infertile owner of a dye mill in rural China conceives a boy with her husband’s nephew but is forced to raise her son as her husband’s heir without revealing his parentage in this circular tragedy. Filmed in glowing technicolour, this tale of romantic and familial love in the face of unbreakable tradition is more universal than its setting. Read More »

Zhao Liang – Bei xi mo shou AKA Behemoth (2015)

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Quote:
Under the sun, the heavenly beauty of grasslands will soon be covered by the raging dust of mines. Facing the ashes and noises caused by heavy mining , the herdsmen have no choice but to leave as the meadow areas dwindle. In the moonlight, iron mines are brightly lit throughout the night. Workers who operate the drilling machines must stay awake. The fight is tortuous, against the machine and against themselves. Meanwhile, coal miners are busy filling trucks with coals. Wearing a coal-dust mask, they become ghostlike creatures. An endless line of trucks will transport all the coals and iron ores to the iron works. There traps another crowd of souls, being baked in hell. In the hospital, time hangs heavy on miners’ hands. After decades of breathing coal dust, death is just around the corner. They are living the reality of purgatory, but there will be no paradise. Read More »

Zhangke Jia – Shan he gu ren AKA Mountains May Depart (2015)

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The life of Tao, and those close to her, is explored in three different time periods: 1999, 2014, and 2025. Read More »

Yimou Zhang – Yao a yao yao dao waipo qiao AKA Shanghai Triad (1995)

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Summary:
“Country boy Shuisheng (Wang Xiaoxiao) is brought to 1930s Shanghai by his uncle who wants the boy to become a member of the powerful gang ruled by manipulative Tang (Li Baotian). In fact, Shuisheng will serve Tang’s capricious mistress Bijou (Gong Li), a nightclub singer whom the boss proclaimed “the Queen of Shanghai.” When the boy’s uncle and the gang’s several other members die during a rival gang’s unsuccessful attempt on Tang’s life, the latter retreats to a remote small island, taking both Bijou and Shuisheng with him and thinking of revenge. The film’s English-language title is a little bit deceiving (the original Chinese title translates to “Row, Row, Row to Grandmother’s Bridge,” a line in Tang’s favorite song performed by Bijou), as this drama centers more on the boy’s coming of age and Bijou’s disillusionment than on Shanghai gang wars. The film is slow-paced and sometimes lacks a narrative drive, but Zhang Yimou’s images are striking as ever and Gong Li’s beauty shines throughout.” -AMG Read More »