Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Behind Shanghai’s Bright Lights: Teng Yung-Shing’s “Return Ticket”

Qin Hailu as Cai Li, one of China's internal migrants struggling to make ends meet in Teng Yung-Shing's Return Ticket.
Films about China’s vast internal migrant population are nothing new, and the country’s leading contemporary director, Jia Zhangke, has done some of the best films on the topic with The World (Shijie) in 2004 and the wonderful Still Life (Sanxia haoren) in 2006. On the other hand, films about young people (though not necessarily migrants) adrift in China’s rapidly transforming urban landscapes have also made for some of the nation’s dullest cinema. Gao Wendong’s Ant City (Mayi Cun, 2010) is one recent excruciating example that comes to mind. Teng Yung-Shing’s Return Ticket (Dao fu yang liu bai li, 2010) lies somewhere between these two poles. It’s a long way short of Jia Zhangke’s greatest work, but it features enough engaging moments to lift it above the average low-budget miserablist Chinese drama.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Newsbites – Chinese Film Wins Gong at the Berlin Film Festival and More Online Restrictions on the Way

A quick roundup of China-related film news from last few weeks, including just-announced awards from the Berlin Festival Festival.
Wang Quan'an's White Deer Plain.
Wang Quan’ans White Deer Plain Collects Berlin Award
The Berlin International Film Festival winds up today, and the festival awards have now been posted on the festival’s website. There was just one feature from mainland China in this year’s competition – Wang Quan’an’s White Deer Plain  (Bai lu yuan), described by the festival as an “epic that takes place towards the end of imperial China in a period of dramatic political and social upheaval.” White Deer Plain managed to pick up one gong – the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Achievement, awarded to cinematographer Lutz Reitemeier for his lensing on the film.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Drunken White Men, Kindhearted Whores and Bestial Japanese: Zhang Yimou’s "The Flowers of War"

Christian Bale and Ni Ni in Zhang Yimou's latest heavy-handed effort, The Flowers of War.
Were Zhang Yimou and the folks at SARFT really surprised when Zhang’s nationalistic, overly sentimental and cliché ridden latest film failed to garner an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film last month? Admittedly the Academy Awards are no stranger to clichés or melodramatic content, but given The Flowers of War was up against A Separation by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi – by all accounts a beautifully understated drama – Zhang’s film was always facing an uphill battle. The Flowers of War is so heavy handed, and in parts frankly laughable, that I don't think it's at all surprising that it failed to even make the Oscars shortlist.