Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Er Shi Si Cheng Ji
China/Hong Kong/Japan, 2008. Bandai Visual Company, Bitters End, China Resources, Office Kitano, Shanghai Film Group, Xstream Pictures. Screenplay by Zhangke Jia, Yongming Zhai. Cinematography by Yu Wang, Nelson Lik-wai Yu. Produced by Shozo Ichiyama, Zhangke Jia, Hong Wang. Music by Yoshihiro Hanno, Giong Lim. Production Design by Qiang Liu. Film Editing by Jinlei Kong, Xudong Lin. Cannes Film Festival 2008. Toronto International Film Festival 2008.
Fascinating quasi-documentary by that master of urban poetry, Zhangke Jia. The closing of a factory in Chengdu is a step towards modernization, the plan being to replace it with a spread of ultra-modern buildings named 24 City after a poem. The destruction of the factory, which for decades produced military aircraft, inspires nostalgia from a variety of former and current employees, not to mention those who grew up in the area as children of employees. Jia found himself interviewing so many people that he could not put them individually on screen, so he hired actors to perform monologues that amalgamate a number of experiences, some terrifying (like a woman who loses her child in the crush of a crowded train station), some of them sweetly funny (including a terrific Joan Chen as the former beauty of the place and the life that followed). The auteur can rarely make a move without Tao Zhao, who shows up here to play a woman whose childhood was spent as the daughter of factory workers. There is a great deal of emotion elicited from both the real participants as well as the actors, and it is impossible to tell which is which except in the case of the more famous members of the cast. It’s a fascinating story about industrial development, framed using the kind of gorgeous images of buildings and machinery that Jia does so well, but it is perpetually human and emotional at the same time.