Berenice Reynaud Reviews Four New Chinese Films

Queer China, 'Comrade China' (dir. Cui Zi'en)

The newest issue of the online film journal Senses of Cinema features lengthy reviews by film scholar and Cal Arts professor Berenice Reynaud on new films from Mainland China. Titled “Men Won’t Cry – Traces of a Repressive Past,” Reynaud covers a dozen international titles that screened at last fall’s Vancouver International Film Festival, giving special attention to four new films from the Mainland, as well as the Hong Kong feature Night and Fog by Ann Hui. Her analysis is particularly astute at discerning issues of identity, gender, power and nationhood in the formal approaches taken by each film. The following are some choice excerpts, though readers are advised to read Reynaud’s appreciations in full:

On Cui Zi’en’s Queer China, ‘Comrade China’

Cui’s most ambitious documentary,Zhi Tongzhi (Queer China, Comrade China). Espousing a more traditional form, and dividing the film in seven chapters, Cui covers incredible ground in a relatively short amount of time (60 minutes)…Fact-filled, yet fun-filled, Cui’s film pays homage to all the tongzhi warriors, male or female, prominent or unknown, who are bringing about what Li describes as a major sexual revolution.

On Oxhide II, Liu Jiayin’s sequel to Oxhide.

Niupi er (Oxhide II) pushes the previous film’s formal radicalism one step further: it breaks down an even smaller domestic space and its 133 minutes into nine shots of uneven lengths and varied angles that go around the table in 45-degree increments (performing a complete 180-degree match). Within this minimalist framework, several layers of emotion/narration intersect. Liu’s shots are carefully, rigorously, exquisitely composed. What is even more amazing is how tension is expressed within the frame, how every gesture, every verbal exchange reorganise the balance of power between the three protagonists.

On Du Haibin’s 1428:

The shadow of lost sons haunts Du Haibin’s 1428, an award-winning (Orizzonti Award in Venice) documentary on the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people, rendered millions homeless and turned the Beichuan area into piles of rubble. Echoing Du’s previous works (such as Tielu yanxian [Along the Railway, 2001] San [Umbrella, 2007]), it is shot in hybrid cinéma-vérité style, with his subjects freely addressing and interacting with him.

On Pema Tseden’s The Search:

A visual poem, as well as a bittersweet song of cultural identity, The Search unfolds at two levels: the classical codes of cinematic representation, and issues pertaining to “the national” (an ambiguous term, if any, for Tibetans born in the Chinese province of Qinghai)… Pema’s immense talent, however, prevents The Search from being yet another film about trying-to-make-a-film; with subtle humour, melancholic accuracy, and impeccable dignity, it opens a too-rare vista into what moves and ails the Tibetan men of his generation.

Read Reynaud’s full review.

Queer China, ‘Comrade China’, Oxhide, 1428 and Oxhide 2 (coming soon) are distributed by dGenerate Films.

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