Jia Zhangke, “Still Life” (2006).

Sep 11 2008 Published by Benito Vergara under review

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Jia Zhangke’s brilliant new film is no ghost story, but it’s nevertheless filled with figures of the walking dead. It’s titled Still Life (Sanxia haoren) perhaps an apt title for a movie filled with movement and travel, but towards an imminent entropy.

The setting is Fengjie, the province with the most people affected by China’s Three Gorges Dam project. The movie follows Sanming, who has come to town to look for his wife and daughter, who he has not seen in 16 years. An unscrupulous motorcycle rider takes him for a ride to see them at their last-known address, and he discovers that this is now under water, flooded by the dammed river. “Haven’t you heard of the Three Gorges Dam?” the driver asks him, incredulously. Sanming barely responds.

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The Best Movies I Saw All Year, 2006 Edition.

Aug 24 2008 Published by Benito Vergara under notes,review

As usual, these include (older) films I got to see only in 2006.

In alphabetical order:

- The Descent (dir. Neil Marshall, England, 2005)
- Linda Linda Linda (dir. Nobuhiro Yamashita, Japan, 2005)
- Tropical Malady (dir. Apichatpong Weesethakul, Thailand, 2004)
- Workingman’s Death (dir. Michael Glawogger, Austria, 2005)

And three runners-up:

- Cavite (dir. Neill dela Llana and Ian Gamazon, U.S.A., 2006)
- High Tension (dir. Alexandre Aja, France, 2003)
- Platform (dir. Jia Zhangke, China, 2000)

“The language of cinema is universal.” This is Landmark Cinema’s introduction to its movies — a contradiction, however, to how much of the American public seems to like its movie-watching. “Like” is a guess on my part; Jonathan Rosenbaum argues, in essence, that the weekly charts of top ten highest-grossing movies are more of a reflection of how producers, marketers and distributors view the American movie-going public. There’s no reason, for instance, that Park Chan-Wook’s satisfying but disturbing revenge flick Oldboy would not have cashed in at the box office — except for the fact that it has subtitles and, most importantly, was relegated only to limited film-festival or one-week runs in North America. (Okay, there are various acts of mutilation and torture, and an animal gets eaten alive — but surely Jackass Number Two had similar scenes, no?)

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