China

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 »

Kaige Chen – Sacrifice (2010)

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Storyline
Sacrifice (Orphan of Zhao Family): To save the only child of the Zhao Family, whose whole clan is massacred at the hands of a nefarious minister, a doctor sacrifices his own son, and later becomes intent on seeking vengeance against the minister after the child grows up. For generations, the Zhao family has wielded power, even extending over the king. In a well-planned coup, their mortal enemy TU’AN GU (Wang Xue Qi) slaughters the entire clan, determined to wipe out their influence forever. However, a solitary Zhao baby survives the massacre, and is hidden and taken home by CHENG YING (Ge You), the doctor who delivered him, to live with his WIFE (Hai Qing) and their own newborn baby. Set on revenge, and raising the Zhao child as his own, Cheng Ying bides his time, enrolling himself and the Zhao orphan (whom he calls Cheng Bo) into the service of the Tu’an Gu household. Tu’ an Gu grows very fond of Cheng Bo and makes Cheng Bo his godson… Written by BronzeKeilani26 Read More »

Zhangke Jia – Tian zhu ding AKA A Touch of Sin (2013)

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An angry miner revolts against the corruption of his village leaders. A migrant worker at home for the New Year discovers the infinite possibilities a firearm can offer. A pretty receptionist at a sauna is pushed to the limit when a rich client assaults her. A young factory worker goes from job to job trying to improve his lot in life. Four people, four different provinces.

Jia’s world has its own geography. It (re)organized China into a personal map, where almost everything starts and ends in the filmmaker’s native province of Shanxi. It is the starting point and the ultimate “home.” This is where Xiao Wu the pickpocket operated, where the itinerant performers of Zhantai (Platform, 2000) roamed, where the sad heroes of Ren xiao yao (Unknown Pleasures, 2002) burnt their lives out, where the migrant worker of San Xia hao ren (Still Life 2006) and Shijie (The World, 2004) came from. This is where Tian zhu ding starts and finishes at the end of a tragic “tour.” The cities of Fenyang or Datong, the countryside and the murderous privatized coal mines have long been a compass to Jia’s filmic China.
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Yang Zhang – Kang rinpoche AKA Paths of the Soul (2015)

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Docu-drama follows the journey of a group of Tibetans on a pilgrimage to Lasa, the holy capital of Tibet. The journey covers 1,200 km on foot, in a continuous repetition of prostrating one’s self on the ground. Over 10 months, we see the simplicity of human relationships and the nature of family, suffering, and resolve. Read More »

Yi’nan Diao – Bai ri yan huo AKA Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)

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Northern China, 1999. The grisly discovery of several corpses is made in a small town. A bloody incident during the attempt to capture the alleged murderer leaves two police officers dead and another badly injured. The surviving officer Zhang Zili is suspended from duty; he takes a job as a security guard at a factory. Five years later, another series of mysterious murders occurs. Aided by a former colleague, Zhang decides to investigate under his own initiative. He discovers that all the victims were connected to Wu Zhizhen, a young woman who works at a dry cleaners. Pretending to be a customer, Zhang begins to observe her and finds himself falling in love with the reticent Wu Zhizhen. One cold winter’s day he makes a horrific discovery. His life now in danger, he realises it is not always possible to separate guilt from innocence. Diao Yinan’s use of the characters of the ex-police officer and the femme fatale is a direct reference to classic detective films. This director’s third feature is a noirish thriller in drained colours which, whilst playfully alluding to the genre, also invites us into the lives of very ordinary people. (-berlinale.de) Read More »