Monthly Archives: May 2007

A Film I Strongly Recommend

After watching this film, I discovered that my eyes are a bit wet. It got wet without me realising it because I was literally sitting at the edge of the sofa watching the drama, the humanity, unveil itself before me. The film that I am talking about is Ritwik Ghatak‘s THE CLOUD CAPPED STAR.

“I didn’t appreciate your worth,
I thought you were like the others
But now I see you in the clouds…
…perhaps a cloud-capped star,
veiled by circumstances…
… your aura dimmed.”

As in all great stories, it is a very simple tale. A young girl imprisoned within her life to support her family, making countless sacrifices for the better of her family, so that the family can hold on together. Her sacrifices were not always repaid with kindness and she was often taken for granted. When she finds herself in trouble, her father who speaks mouthful of “educated” and “wise” lines also abandons her. She lays her hopes on a man whom she thought she would marry but the man betrays her. Will any good come in the end? Yes, but will she live to see it? We don’t know. We don’t need to know.

Her only happiness was when she was young and free of responsibilities, when she and her brother climbed the hills and get to see the sunrise. It was difficult climbing the hills but seeing the sunrise made it all worth it. This became her philosophy in life too. In the course of the movie, we see how she treasures the moments in the hills together with her beloved brother and how she longed to return to that feeling. Towards the end, although she was in deep trouble and abandoned, the fact that she is finally relieved of her responsibilities made her smile and we as the audience felt happy for her because after all these hardship, she finally returns to her innocent childhood, free of worldly burden.

Wow! What a film! Please, I beg you, if you love movies, to please watch this film if you can.

If you love movies like Satyajit Ray‘s APU TRILOGY or Yasujiro Ozu‘s TOKYO STORY, you will love this one.

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Jia Zhangke

I was totally bowled over by STILL LIFE when I first saw it. After that, I watched THE WORLD which was also magnificent. Today, thanks to the public holiday, I found time to watch the 150-minute PLATFORM. Absolutely amazing movie this is!

From what I make of his movies, Jia Zhangke’s observation of day-to-day life and his ability to translate that into his films through the lives of his characters done with nuanced simplicity is something that I admire greatly. He reminds me of Hou Hsiao-hsien, movies like THE BOYS FROM FENGKUEI, for example.

I am so happy to still have UNKNOWN PLEASURES and XIAO WU still in my library waiting for me to unwrap and enjoy them. Truly, still unknown pleasures. Maybe I will watch it tomorrow after a nice breakfast in Petaling Street since there is nothing playing at the cinemas right now except crap (TURNING PAGES in the Picture House (wonderful place) in Cathay is worth checking out though but it’s sooooo far from my house. Distance is no excuse as Tsai Ming Liang said when we met him last Friday;-)).

Instead of me writing about the movie (PLATFORM) which I am not very good at, here’s a direct copy from Acquarello, my master mentor:

“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. The theme of mimicry and imitation of the foreign and unfamiliar continues in a subsequent, lighthearted scene, this time to the family home of one of the junior performers in the troupe, Cui Ming-liang (Wang Hong-wei) in the city of Fenyang in the northern Chinese province of Shanxi, then reveals the timeframe to be the late 1970s as his mother obliges the idle, cocksure young man by altering a seemingly impractical pair of bell-bottom jeans in which the cuffs are so wide that, as she bemusedly comments, they can be used to sweep the streets. The film then proceeds in a series of slice-of-life vignettes that obliquely chronicle the lives of Ming-liang and his fellow “art performers” – the demure object of his affection, Ruijuan (Zhao Tao), Ruijian’s more progressive-minded friend, Zhong-ping (Tian Yi-yang), and Zhong-Ping’s ambitious and self-motivated lover, Zhang-Jun (Liang Jing-dong) – through pop culture influences that indirectly reflect the social reformation of latter-day contemporary China from an insular, state-run economy towards privatization.

Filmed in distancing medium shots that visually reflect the nation’s increasing regional polarization and cultural heterogeneity as a result of shifting economic reforms away from isolationism and state-controlled industries towards globalization, modernization, and integrated free enterprise, Platform is a humorous, quietly observed, serenely realized, and incisive cultural document of China towards the end of the twentieth century. Jia Zhang-ke further creates a sense of pervasive discontinuity through modular narrative ellipses that establish a chronological linearity and progression that, nevertheless, blurs the relativity between each subsequent, self-contained episode. In essence, the film serves as a deliberately fragmented, unsentimental, and emotionally dissociative first-hand account of contemporary history: an estranged and depersonalized chronicle that illustrates the marginalization of humanity under the turmoil of profound national change. Similar to the plight of the perennially dislocated acting troupe in Theo Angelopoulos’ epic film, The Travelling Players, the evolution of the itinerant performers – from disseminators of peasant propaganda, to champions of an eroding, indigenous culture, and eventually, to gauche (and unintentionally comical) assimilators of commercial pop culture – is a poignant articulation of a generation foundering in their own seeming irrelevance and figurative exile from within their homeland, desperately struggling for inclusion and a sense of place in their country’s future. It is this sentiment of cultural displacement that is illustrated in the repeated encounters between Ming-liang and Ruijuan among the ruins of a disused ancient fortress: an elegiac image of unrequited love lost in the expansive and formidable landscape of a silent, unarticulated, and disconnected human history.

© Acquarello 2004. All rights reserved.”

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