Platform (2000)

ZHANGKE JIA

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5

Original Title: Zhantai

///, 2000. , , , . Screenplay by Zhangke Jia. Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by , . Film Editing by .

Jia Zhangke’s second commercial feature has often been referred to as the masterpiece of Chinese cinema of its era, setting him up as one of the most important directors on the world stage. Beginning in the early eighties and set in the director’s home province of Shanxi, it concerns a troupe of musical players whose performances highlight the country’s excitement over the cultural revolution, their songs and skits dutiful but passionate in celebrating anti-capitalist ideals. At the centre of the group are a handful of characters whose experiences embody the changes that occur over the decade through which the movie progresses, one couple (, former dance teacher making her film debut and working for Jia for the first time) iffy in their commitment to each other and eventually divided by her decision to leave performing and work as a tax collector, the other deeply enamored lovers (, ) whose sexual connection gets them in trouble with their conservative overseers. As time passes and communist ideals begin to crumble, the company’s performances also adapt to the appeal of western culture that is slowly seeping in and causing social change that is at odds with the political power that remains more or less the same. Jia displays all these themes against a beautifully shot, awe-inspiring canvas of political turbulence that never dwarfs the emotional power of the human experiences being lived within it. The ellipses in his plotting, which take some effort to keep up with as the film never goes out of its way to explain itself, add to a feeling of documentary realism despite situations that contain the power of high drama; some might need to watch this film more than once to figure out all its finer points, but doing so only reveals the film’s richness, it does not reduce it.

Toronto International Film Festival: 2000

Venice Film Festival: In Competition

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