Jia Zhangke

I can safely say I have seen my share of Asian movies these past couple of months. I remember when starting this blog, I expressed it was a genre that was unknown to me safe for maybe the name Kurosawa. Well, this day, I stand corrected. I have one more director to add to the list: Jia Zhangke. He is one of the Sixth Generation directors. My knowledge of this is limited, though I have read up on it. I do recommend the links below for a brief introduction if it takes your fancy.

Till now I have seen (in the order I viewed them):
  1. Still Life (Sanxia haoren)(2006)
  2. Unknown Pleasures (Ren xiao yao)(2002)
  3. The World (Shijie)(2004)
  4. Xiao Wu (1997) – also known as Pickpocket, indirectly based on the same titled French movie by Robert Bresson in 1959. When I saw the French movie, it struck me how rigit the acting was. Much as Zhangke used for Xiao Wu.

I have not seen Platform (Zhantai)(2000), and am not sure if I will. Knowing it is very slow and not that appealing to watch. The order in which I watched them was recommended and a good recommendation at that. Because Zhangke’s genre is one not for all to appreciate. You have to ease into it. It has an amateurish look at times. mainly because the films are made ‘underground’ and censored by the state.

The main theme is alienation of youth in a conservative and changing China. But still, it has it’s appeal. Knowing that most of his movies were filmed in secrecy, without authorization of the government is a strange fact to know. Because that controversal these movies don’t seem, at least not to me. But again, I am not familiar with politics in that part of the world, as I have expressed before. The World, however, was made with the government consent, though the fact remains dubious whether it could be played before the Chinese public… constraints still remaining.

I have to say, how colourful The World might have been, my favorite of the lot is Unknown Pleasures (which I later learned does in fact refer to Joy Division – I thought it a coincidence – ha!). There are some funny scenes in that movie. No doubt you’ll see references to Pulp Fiction, especially on the dance floor – a bit of an awkward viewing of the extra’s in the shot but still worth it! The movie did get nominated for a Golden Palm in Cannes though. Shish.

In four of Zhangke’s movies, Zhao Tao is his leading lady. And I have come to like watching her play. She reminds me of a Bulgarian/Vietnamese girl I went to grad school with. She has much of the same manners when expressing herself.

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