Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
Original title: Shan he gu ren
China/France/Japan, 2015. Shanghai Film Group, MK2 Productions, Bitters End, Arte France Cinéma, Bandai Visual, Beijing Runjin Investment, Centre National de la Cinématographie, L’Aide aux Cinémas du Monde, Office Kitano, Xstream Pictures. Screenplay by Zhangke Jia. Cinematography by Nelson Lik-wai Yu. Produced by Shozo Ichiyama. Music by Yoshihiro Hanno. Production Design by Qiang Liu. Film Editing by Matthie Laclau. Cannes Film Festival 2015. Toronto International Film Festival 2015.
Jia Zhang-ke leaves behind the contemplative, art house brilliance of earlier films and instead creates a melodramatic soap opera for popular appeal; his ability to pinpoint the vulnerabilities within characters who put up a false front continues to serve him well, but his plot leaves much to be desired. It originally begins in 1999, when Jia’s mainstay lead actress Tao Zhao plays a young woman torn between an ambitious capitalist and a handsome, affectionate coal miner. The two men, who were once friends, are driven apart by their shared love of the dance instructor, the outcome of which we see when we move to the present before flashing forward to 2025 (complete with gorgeously futuristic colours) where the inheritance of past behavior is revealed. Connections are loose rather than spontaneous or subtle, but what really hurts this one is a shallow presentation of relationships that becomes a punishment when we get to the last third and have to endure amateurish acting from the young male lead at the heart of the story. Devastatingly unimportant filmmaking from a director capable of the marvels he has accomplished in the past.