Still Life and Dong (Jia Zhang-ke / 2006)

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Re: Still Life and Dong (Jia Zhang-ke / 2006)

Postby howardschumann(d) » Tue Oct 10, 2006 3:24 pm

Seen at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF)
STILL LIFE (Sanxia Haoren)

Directed by Jia Zhanke (2006)

This week China announced that about 300,000 more people than planned will be relocated as a result of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, bringing the total displaced to more than 1.4 million. The $22.5-billion US dam, a megaproject five times the size of the Hoover Dam, which has been heavily criticized by environmental and human rights groups, was begun in 1993 but will not go into full operation until 2008. The project's effect on ordinary Chinese is the focus of Jia Zhangke's latest film, Still Life, the surprise winner of the Golden Lion Award at this year's Venice Film Festival.

Set in the village of Fengjie, since submerged in water to make way for the dam, Jia's slow-paced, class-conscious effort dramatizes the life of villagers who have been forced from their homes, had their traditional way of life destroyed, and sent to live in cities against their will, often having to resort to begging and garbage collecting, or even prostitution to stay alive. The film, along with its companion documentary Dong, tells overlapping stories of the emotional trauma of local people caught in the dislocation at Fengjie while a new village is being built.

In the first sequence, Han Sanming, a middle-aged coal miner from Jia's home Shanxi province, arrives on a ferry to look for his ex-wife, Missy after sixteen years of estrangement. All he has to rely on is an address given to him many years ago, completely unaware of the demolition and flooding in the area. Avoiding local swindlers, he tracks down Missy's uncle who tells him that his former wife is now in Yichang with his teenage daughter. Staying on to work in the demolition projects, Han engages in conversations with other workers who complain of the low wages they are receiving (60 to 70 Yuan a day) and want to return to Shanxi province with Han where they can earn 200 Yuan a day working in the dangerous coal mines.

In the second story, Shen Hong (Zhao Tao), a nurse arrives from Shanxi as well and is also searching for a missing person, her husband Guo Bin, who left the family two years ago. She is aided in her search by archaeologist Wang Dongming but it is uncertain what course of action Shen has in mind when she reunites with her husband. The film, however, is not about the story line but about the landscape and the atmosphere, playfully charged by the CG appearance of a UFO and a spaceship that takes off in the middle of the rubble.

In Still Life, Jia demonstrates to the world how one of China's most gorgeous areas, one that brings in 1.3 million tourists a year, has become a scene of squalor. Jia says: "We all know there is major change going on in China and I wanted to get more people to know what's happening. I will continue to make films along these lines and explore the problems of the weaker social classes." If Jia's future projects contain the unmatched cinematography, compelling story, and characters whose lives touch us as Still Life, we have much to look forward to.

GRADE: A
howardschumann(d)
 


Re: Still Life and Dong (Jia Zhang-ke / 2006)

Postby hengcs » Wed Oct 11, 2006 3:38 am

wow ... it is great that you have seen the film and like it ...

apparently, it was touted a "surprise" win becos many audience/critics (before the announcement of the awards) did not really like it ... claiming that it has not much plot and is too slow for comfort ...

i have not seen it ... and i will try to catch it ...

PS: By the way, do you know that the poster was intentionally designed to look like one of the currency denomination in China?
hengcs
 

Re: Still Life and Dong (Jia Zhang-ke / 2006)

Postby howardschumann(d) » Wed Oct 11, 2006 4:16 am

I didn't realize that the audience or critics didn't like it at Venice. I hadn't heard this before. All I heard was that it was a late entry and most expected Bobby or some other hyped film to take the prize. Yes it is slow and there is not much plot but it is very natural and true to life.
howardschumann(d)
 

Still Life and Dong (Jia Zhang-ke / 2006)

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:56 am



edited by admin

hi arsaib4,
sorry for merging the two threads
arsaib4
 

Re: Still Life and Dong (Jia Zhang-ke / 2006)

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Jan 24, 2007 9:10 am

DONG (Hong Kong-China / 2006)

If Jia Zhang-kes masterful new narrative film, Still Life (2006), could also be seen as a documentary, then perhaps his first feature-length documentary, Dong (East), should be examined as a work which contains fictional elements. For instance, Jia regular Han Sanming, who plays one of the protagonists in the Golden Lion winning effort, appears in Dong as if he was in character, becoming thoughtful and morose while gazing across the Yangtze River to the town of Fengjie as it gradually turns into rubble due to the construction of the monumental (and controversial) Three Gorges Dam nearby. (Also, there are certain shots that surface in both films.) Jia was invited to the Sichuan province by acclaimed Chinese figurative painter Liu Xiao-dong -- who was previously seen in Wang Xiaoshuais The Days (1993) and Jias own The World (2004) -- to film him while he worked on a large polyptych of 11 haggard, near-naked laborers (many of whom are also present in Still Life). Jia captures the paintings and the bodies with slow pans that, much like the art itself, blur into the overwhelming milieu which surrounds them. (Since Dong was reportedly conceived first, its quite possible that Still Life simply ended up being the extention of what Jia discovered on his journey.) The second half of this 66-minute film takes place in Bangkok, where Liu attempts to do the same with just as many young female "models." Much like what he did with Han earlier, Jia follows one of the girls in attempt to gain a scope of her displacement in this rapidly changing part of the world (when she appeared on a neon-lit overpass I thought Jia was about to pull a Hou). Exquisitely shot on high-definition video -- by Jia, his long-time DP Yu Likwai, along with Chow Chi-sang and Tian Li -- Dong is accomplished enough to stand on its own, but it functions best as a companion piece to Still Life.

___________________

*DONG premiered at the 2006 Venice Film Festival, where it won the "Open" and the "Doc/It" awards. No U.S. distributor at the point.
arsaib4
 

Re: Still Life and Dong (Jia Zhang-ke / 2006)

Postby hengcs » Tue Apr 17, 2007 1:17 am

Dong
Here's the English subtitled version

global.yesasia.com/en/Prd...004749175/
hengcs
 

Re: Still Life and Dong (Jia Zhang-ke / 2006)

Postby hengcs » Mon Mar 24, 2008 4:30 pm



merged
hengcs
 

Re: Still Life and Dong (Jia Zhang-ke / 2006)

Postby wpqx » Thu May 22, 2008 5:10 am

Finally saw Still Life and was stunned by it. Not much happens and its not really all that important what we do see. The compositions are so amazing though that I found myself just transfixed by the images on the screen. I can certainly see how this film might cause a bit of controversy in China, but as a piece of filmmaking it is superb.
wpqx
 

Re: Still Life and Dong (Jia Zhang-ke / 2006)

Postby arsaib4 » Wed May 28, 2008 6:05 am

Here's hoping that New Yorker will put it out on DVD within an appropriate time frame and won't take as long as it did with Moolaadé.

Chinese DVD (R6/PAL/English Subtitles):

Still Life - U.S. $7.99
arsaib4
 

Re: Still Life and Dong (Jia Zhang-ke / 2006)

Postby wpqx » Wed May 28, 2008 6:59 pm

I've seen the Chinese DVD and decent presentation, but a bare bones disc for the most part and although with English subtitles the menus are in Chinese so just take a guess at what to select.
wpqx
 

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