Zhang Yimou's Harmonious Society (posted by Lawrence Li)Below is Dou Jiangming's post about Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers)'s latest movie Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, translated into English. The Chinese original can be read here. Dou is a prominent freelance film critic and the Entertainment Editor of Southern Metropolis Daily, he's based in Guangzhou.
I didn't catch the beginning.
After my business lunch at Tang restaurant, I was informed of a press preview of Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles at the Guangzhou Movie Company. Why not, since it's so close.
I went to the venue, only to find that the first reel of films hadn't arrived yet.
The movie started with Ken Takakura asking for another translator.
I was speechless after going through the whole film.
The couple of emotion-stirring moments are so well-crafted, I feel numb nevertheless.
The numbness was there even during the shots in which Ken Takakura shed tears facing the distant mountains.
Only when the camera focuses on the weeping faces in the prison did I start getting uneasy.
The shot is kind of familiar, isn't it? Remember the faces in the audience of "Commendation Meetings of Heroes and Model Workers", which are regularly featured on CCTV news?
Maybe it's time to stop expecting anything from the 5th generation of Chinese directors, despite the fact that they always consume the largest chunk of your attention?
Chen Kaige indulges in his ambitious fantasy, looking down to this mortal coil up in the clouds.
Neither is Zhang Yimou's feet on the ground.
Riding Alone presents a naive and peaceful world, a harmonious society (HARMONIOUS SOCIETY, I guess I did get the point).
There are no hardship, no hatred, no fury, no frustration, only the pure, innocent touching mood.
"We should unveil our masks and face each other truthfully." This is probably the tag line of the movie.
But the moment I was prepared to unveil the mask, I saw a new one.
Why are all these "maestros" so distant with us?
No matter hermetic or ambitious (this is pretty much the case with The Promise), they're drifting away from reality.
1. The Promise (Wu Ji) is Chen Kaige's critically condemned latest blockbuster.
UPDATE (11:13 am, Dec 27):
A comment to Dou's original post by A Tao, also a freelance film critic (Hey! There are no full-time film critics in the western sense in today's China):
Fuck it, word up! This is exactly why I think The Promise is better than it. Individual arrogance is understandable, and it stops bothering you when you start ignoring it. But a film like Riding Alone is so fucking pathetic because it simply covers up the deteriorate reality of China. So it's true: Zhang has been making "terroristic movies" all along.