Drowning in Progress – J. Hoberman

The Village Voice reviews Jia Zhangke’s Still Life, which is just being released in the U.S.:

More observer than director, Jia is concerned with how it feels to be in a particular environment. His films are predicated on a sense of everyday social flux and, more than any I’ve seen, they provide some sense of China’s seething interior. Jia’s parents were sent to Shanxi during the Cultural Revolution, and that’s where he was born. (Dislocation is his birthright.) Shanxi was also the setting for Jia’s first three movies — Xiao Wu, Platform, and Unknown Pleasures. Now, in Still Life, Shanxi’s inhabitants are themselves on the move. For Jia, the sense of a lost past is not only a matter of personal history, but something cultural and even geological. The eternal is transitory — or is it vice versa? Fengjie, which has been on the banks of the Yangtze forever, is now the essence of the ephemeral. People live amid the rubble’s crevices, on abandoned piers and in derelict barges. Raw, unfinished, and painfully specific, the setting is the opposite of the denatured Beijing theme park in Jia’s last movie, World. [Full text]

The New Yorker also has a review of both Still Life and Lou Ye’s Summer Palace.


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