Metrograph’s Introduction on Platform: Jia Zhangke’s intimate epic begins in and returns to the director’s hometown of Fenyang, Shanxi Province,
where it picks up with a theatre troupe first encountered in the late ‘70s, following them through changes in fashion over the course of a decade as they are scattered to the wind and finally return, along the way tracking the social shifts that accompany China’s move from the wake of the Cultural Revolution to the threshold of market capitalism. “It’s Pop Art as history.” – J. Hoberman
Slant’s Ed Gonzalez’s Review on Platform: You can feel the unrest in the air: Trains constantly leave and come into the community, but it’s as if no one rides on them; the tide is changing (Mao is dead and a Western, market-driven pop awareness is slowly seeping in), but no one seems to be going anywhere quick. Atop the cement platform that overlooks the city, a couple engages in a courtship repeatedly frustrated by unbending parents, defeated selves, and bitter surroundings (at one point, cement pillars make it difficult for them to share the same frame).
… … Some critics have complained about the film’s lack of narrative vigor, forgetting that Jia’s point is that there’s very little for these people to live out. These are lives trapped in amber, trying to create a more complex narrative. Via startling long shots and temporal displacements, Jia truly evokes a community grasping hopelessly for something, anything to lift them up.
New York Times’ A.O. Scott’s Review on Platform: Slow and gradual also describe the director Jia Zhang Ke’s approach to storytelling. Social change is incremental, and rarely noticed by those living through it. Mr. Jia shows the commercialization of provincial Chinese culture largely through incidental details.
… … When they are outdoors, Mr. Jia photographs his characters from a distance. The lovers argue on the ancient battlements that surround their hometown or stand in vast, empty winter fields. Interior spaces are either dimly lighted or flooded with harsh white backlighting. While these techniques often create visually arresting images, they also keep us detached from the human dimensions and emotional resonance of the story. The film seems to invert conventional notions of foreground and background, as if the feelings and choices of individuals were incidental and the real interest lay in their changing cultural milieu.
… … The historical thesis is clear enough: bourgeois domesticity and consumer capitalism have replaced collectivism. We grasp this as a historical fact, but not as an experience. Or to put it another way, the characters in ”Platform” live through a lot of history, but the history — and the film itself — never really come alive.
Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Introduction on The Wonders: Winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, Alice Rohrwacher’s vivid story of teenage yearning and confusion revolves around a beekeeping family in rural central Italy… … Hélène Louvart’s lensing combines a documentary attention to daily ritual with an evocative atmosphere of mystery to conjure a richly concrete world that is subject to the magical thinking of adolescence.
Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Introduction on La France: From time to time, these surprisingly sensitive, introspective men break out an assortment of homemade instruments and perform original songs written for the film by Benjamin Esdraffo and… … Exquisitely shot by Céline Bozon (the director’s sister), this unclassifiable hybrid of war movie and movie musical is truly unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Introduction on The Strange Case of Angelica: Manoel de Oliveira’s sly, metaphysical romance—made when the famously resilient director was a mere 102 years old—is a mesmerizing, beyond-the-grave rumination on love, mortality, and the power of images… … The crisp chiaroscuro compositions of cinematographer Sabine Lancelin enhance the film’s otherworldly, unstuck-in-time aura.
Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Introduction on The Milk of Sorrow: Llosa and DP Natasha Braier capture the striking beauty of Lima’s outskirts, as well as a revelatory performance by Magaly Solier, with dignity and grace. Winner of the Golden Bear at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival.