Posts Tagged ‘li hongqi’

Three New Chinese Indie Docs Reviewed in Variety and Twitch

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

By Kevin B. Lee

"Are We Really So Far from the Madhouse?"

Covering the Vancouver International Film Festival for Variety, Robert Koehler has been filing rave reviews of some new Chinese independent documentaries he’s seen at the festival’s Dragons and Tigers lineup. We are excited to see his praise for Bachelor Mountain, the new film by Yu Guangyi (whose Timber Gang is distributed by dGenerate) and Are We Really So Far from the Madhouse, the latest by Li Hongqi (whose Winter Vacation is available through dGF).

Coincidentally, the same three documentaries are also reviewed enthusiastically by Kathie Smith, who covered VIFF for the website Twitch.

Click through to read excerpts from Koehler’s and Smith’s reviews – click on their names to access the full text of Koehler’s reviews on Variety (registration required) and Smith’s on Twitch. Also read the program notes on all Chinese language films at VIFF by programmer Shelly Kraicer.

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Jia Zhangke on “Bull—-” Patriotism, Li Hongqi, Dragons and Tigers: New Cinema-Scope

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Jia Zhangke

The new issue of Cinema Scope magazine has a heavy dose of Chinese cinema coverage.

In the magazine, Jia Zhangke, whose most recent film is the documentary on Shanghai I Wish I Knew, talks about disturbing behavior he has witnessed by Chinese audience members at international festivals in an essay titled “On the Bullshit Logic of Patriotism:”

A woman, about 20 years old and rather timid in aspect, addressed me in the lobby: “Director, I would like to ask you a question that won’t make you happy. Why do you want to shoot such a filthy-looking Shanghai and such politicized characters for the benefit of Westerners?” I replied: “I’m shooting the real Shanghai. Peyond Pudong and Huaihai Road, Shanghai also has industrial areas clustered on both banks of Suzhou River; it has small, narrow alleyways in the southern part of the city. This is what life looks like here. This is what Shanghai looks like.” The woman suddenly became angry. “So, haven’t you taken into consideration how your film will look to foreigners who watch it? How it will influence their impressions of Shanghai and of China? How it will even influence foreigners’ confidence in investing in China?” I also go angry. “What’s the point of worrying so much about foreigners? Should we ignore what actually exists just for the sake of a bit of foreign investment, for the sake of whatever impressions foreigners might derive of China? The vast majority of china’s 1.3 billion people still live in the same conditions of poverty that they always have. How can we ignore this?”

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Disorder, Winter Vacation Named Discoveries of 2011 by Film Comment Magazine

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Disorder (dir. Huang Weikai)

The current issue of Film Comment magazine polls several critics, filmmakers and programmers on the “unknown pleasures” they watched in 2010 that are poised to be more widely discovered this year. Two Chinese films are mentioned, both independent productions: Winter Vacation by Li Hongqi and Disorder by Huang Weikai. Here are the entries, both found at the Film Comment website:

Winter Vacation: The funniest film since Goodbye, Dragon Inn, but actually it’s funnier – and a bit faster-paced. There is not a single superfluous action nor unnecessary cut. The sky is always empty over this dead-end town in Inner Mongolia, and not even an insulting tirade from a teacher “off his medicine” can break the lethargy of his students. He’s in the wrong classroom, as his substitute begins a lesson on “how to be a useful person.” Then there’s a cathartic eruption of punk rock from the Top Floor Circus on the soundtrack. If only the students could hear it. – Thom Andersen

Disorder: Huang Weikai inaugurates a new genre: the City Cacophony Film. Taking Canton as his subject, he explodes the Romantic lyricism of Ruttmann and Cavalcanti into oblique shards as China’s third largest city, polarized by tradition and globalization, becomes a study in existential absurdity. A patchwork of amateur footage offers a berserk, scattershot glimpse into the public and private spheres of this modern metropolis. A distant cousin of Godard’s Weekend, shot through with Keystone Kops, discontented citizens, and a renegade pig, Disorder is an original, terrifying portrait of a society on the verge of a nervous breakdown. – Michael Chaiken

As official distributors of Disorder, we’re quite pleased that the film was singled out for praise as a discovery in the waiting – though we’re a bit puzzled by its designation as an “unknown pleasure,” as we’ve published numerous articles and news items on the film over the past year. Disorder featured prominently in our recent coverage of the 2010 Reel China Documentary Biennial. Disorder was also mentioned in the Moving Image Source poll of Best Moving Image Moments of 2010. We even announced that director Huang Weikai was available to present his work through the end of February! We’ll just have to do a better job of getting the word out about this and other exciting new work coming from the independent film scene in China.

Berenice Reynaud Spotlights Six Chinese Films at Vancouver

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Thomas Mao (dir. Zhu Wen)

Judging by the extensive coverage of Chinese films at the Vancouver International Film Festival, one can conclude that it is one of the key venues to see the best of Chinese cinema outside of China. We’ve already pointed to reports by VIFF Dragons and Tigers programmer Shelly Kraicer, Film Comment’s Robert Koehler and MUBI’s Daniel Kasman. In the latest issue of Senses of Cinema, Berenice Reynaud offers an in-depth take on half a dozen Chinese-language titles, among many other films reviewed from the festival. Some excerpts:

On Li Hongqi’s Winter Vacation: “Li alternates wordless, rigorously composed scenes with instances of sparse dialogue, a Beckett-like hollowing of everyday platitudes.”

On Zhu Wen’s Thomas Mao: “Another scintillating example of neo-Chinese wit.”

On Jia Zhangke’s I Wish I Knew: “Old Shanghai is disappearing in the wake of unprecedented urban destruction (a lot of it caused by the World Expo itself); I Wish I Knew captures it as a dream, a memory, a flow of cinematic images that are as fluid and immaterial as the two rivers that run through it.”

On Hao Jie’s Single Man: “Visceral, off-colour, generous to a fault, Hao Jie’s Guanggun (Single Man) is one of the most exciting filmmaking debuts in years.”

On Zhao Dayong’s The High Life: “Zhao plays with our narrative expectations, blurring the lines between fiction and self-representation.”

On Xu Tong’s Fortune Teller: “Following Li and Little Pearl on the back alleys and dusty roads of rural China, Xu – whose first film, Mai shou (Wheat Harvest, 2008) was the controversial portrait of a lower class prostitute leading a double life – casts an unsentimental gaze at these humble lives that the “new and harmonious society” would like to keep under the rug.”

Reynaud concludes of the latter three films:

During the Mao years, conformity was the norm. Now the powers-that-be want to transform the citizens into quiet, obedient consumers. Films such as Single Man, High Life or Fortune Teller outline the gap between these grand plans and the way people live, point out the heightened contradictions of modernisation. Whether they resort to fictionalisation or experimental techniques, they manage to capture something of this reality that Lacan perceived as left over between the symbolic (the laws) and the imaginary (the utopias of socialism or free market).

Read Reynaud’s complete festival report at Senses of Cinema.

Chinese Indie Feature Wins Top Prize at Locarno

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Li Hongqi, winner of the Golden Leopard for Winter Vacation (Photo: Locarno Film Festival)

by Isabella Tianzi Cai

34-year-old Chinese director Li Hongqi’s feature, Winter Vacation, won the Golden Leopard Award at the 63rd Locarno Film Festival on Saturday, August 14, 2010. It is the second time in Locarno’s award history that one country has won the top prize for two consecutive years. In 2009, the award was given to She, a Chinese by another Chinese director Guo Xiaolu.

Winter Vacation tells a coming-of-age story set in a small town of Inner Mongolia in Northern China. The story centers around four youths and it takes place on the last day of their winter vacation. The youths’ general lack of purpose in life is captured in scanty dialogue and “long shots with little editing for stretches of several minutes” (GenevaLunch). As specified by Brian Brooks in indieWire,

“Their conversations are desultory and they sometimes seem to argue for argument’s sake. One of them, Laowu, talks frankly with his girlfriend about how teenage love might affect their studies, while Laobao questions school’s value and relevance to real life.”

Both thematically and stylistically speaking, Winter Vacation resembles dGenerate’s Fujian Blue and Betelnut. Though the stories take place in different parts of China, they share quite some common sentiments of Chinese youths today.

Trivia: The jury of the festival this year included Singapore filmmaker Eric Khoo, whose film My Magic was nominated for the Golden Palm award at Cannes in 2008.