Monday, June 16, 2008


This documentary is the companion piece of Jia Zhang ke film Sānxiá Hǎorén (Still Life) that follows artist and actor Liu Xiaodong as he invited Jia to film him while he paints a group of laborers near the Three Gorges Dam and later a group of women in Bangkok, Thailand.

In the Three Gorges Dam segment the documentary shares some takes from the Still Life film, so it is obvious to me that Jia was doing the film at the same time. The evident story about the big format spreads that Liu is painting in each segment is interesting as you are able to see how he sketches and some paintings transformations into the final art production.

But everything I have told you is only the excuse to do what Jia Zhang ke does like no other contemporary filmmaker I know, as he chronicles moments in the ordinary life of people, this time in China as well as in Thailand and he does it in his quiet incisive way that here flourishes so good especially in the Thailand segment.

The Three Georges Dam segment was an excellent complement to the movie as gives you more insights on the local population ordinary life. But the Thailand segment was a true surprise to me that engaged me up to the point of imagining a complete short film out of the situations presented for one of the girl’s posing for the painting; mesmerized me when followed the blind beggars couple, and totally drove me crazy with his camera moves and framing.

This is not your regular documentary, this is a fantastic film that incisively peeks at people’s lives and does it without being intrusive. Amazing! As a film has some long takes, silent majestic moments, absolutely great framing, and there are not many words involved in the 66 minutes it runs. This film is a confirmation to me that he has to be recording the contemporary lives of people as Ozu and Naruse did in their time and as I first felt with Still Life and Unknown Pleasures.

As you perhaps guessed by now this film is absolutely not for all audiences as most people expect a documentary about a painter and well, yes it is… but that’s not the true value of this film. I believe you have to be familiar with Jia Zhang ke filmmaking style to really enjoy this film and please notice that I do not call it a documentary, as this is a medium length outstanding film that serious cinema lovers cannot afford to miss if you have seen Still Life, but also if you haven’t as is a oeuvre that stands alone especially for the Thailand segment.

By the way, Dong literally means East, which to me means exactly what this film is all about, an extraordinary glimpse at the contemporary and ordinary lives of some eastern people. Now more than before, I'm "dying" to be able to see Jia Zhang ke latest movie, Er shi si cheng ji (24 City) that premeried at the 2008 Cannes.

Big Enjoy!!!

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