Mountains May Depart (2015) and Jia Zhangke, A Guy From Fenyang (2015)

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Maysa Moncoa’s latest updates from the London Film Festival.

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Walter Salles (“On the road”, “Motorcycle Diaries”) started a project to shoot a documentary on the Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke in 2007. But because both directors were often busy, the film took form only in 2013-2014. “Jia Zhangke, a guy from Fenyang” is a register about the Chinese filmmaker’s memories on his first movies. They decided to go to the places Zhangke shot his scenes and talk about the changes in China.

Juxtaposing interviews in different Chinese dialects with generous, selected clips from Jia’s movies, the documentary is an emotional tale on the everyday effects of social, political and economic change on ordinary people. And probably because Salles is so used to create road movies, his Latin American crew was able to catch the essence of Zhangke’s work: inspiration comes from going to the locations.

Zhangke was only 9 when the Cultural Revolution took place in his country. Then he would be exposed to the contradictions between West and East and later would understand why he suffers from an enormous loneliness. He says it is because Fenyang is a walled city.

His first movies didn’t have a national distribution. They became cult movies thanks to the piracy. Although today he is invited for conferences in universities in Beijing and he can talk with young students about the legacy of Mao, his recent pictures were censored. His characters are miners, picketpockers, poor workers without the glamour of the nouvelle vague actors. He is talking about his neighbours and family members. He is worried about cities that would disappear under water after the “modernizations” in China. His settings are among ruins of buildings and demolition machines. Coal spreads the smoke into the lens of the camera.

In “Mountains may depart”, which is part of the London Film Festival programme, he covers three time of periods in the life of a group of friends. The new Millenneum and the Chinese capitalism wave theirs flags over the sorrow of the older generations and the symbols of a unified country. The new is still under construction, an artificial bay for all values based on the collective, on us, rather than on ego.

Being a traveller myself, I curiously observed that many Western metropolis has its own Chinatown. It is as if a Chinese micro-universe would be inserted into the DNA of those capitalist mecas. There is too much history on these micro-universes to be simply swept under the rug. There is a diamond hidden in the dust of demolition. I guess what Salles and Zhangke have both seen is that little shining object also known as “human being”.

 

MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART

☆ ☆ ☆

CHINA, JAPAN, FRANCE, DRAMA, 2015, 131 MIN

DIRECTOR: JIA ZHANGKE

WITH ZHAO TAO, ZHANG HI, LIANG JIN DONG

ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Born in the North of China, Jia Zhangke is a leading figure of the “Sixth Generation Movement” of Chinese cinema. His most famous films are “Still life”, “The world” and “A touch of sin”.

 

JIA ZHANGKE, A GUY FROM FENYANG

☆ ☆ ☆

BRAZIL, DOCUMENTARY, 2015, 98 MIN

DIRECTOR: WALTER SALLES

WITH JIA ZHANGKE, ZHAO TAO

ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Known for “Central Station”, “The Motorcycle Diaries” and “On the road”, Walter Salles helped seal the revival of Brazilian cinema abroad in the 90s.

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