Chinese Reality #28: Some Actions which Haven’t Been Defined Yet in the Revolution

To commemorate the film series Chinese Realities / Documentary Visions at the Museum of Modern Art (May 8-June 1), each day this month this blog will publish a brief primer on one of the 28 films selected in the series.

Today’s film:

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Some Actions which Haven’t Been Defined Yet in the Revolution (dir. Sun Xun)

2011. China. Directed by Sun Xun.

MoMA program description:

This complex, beautifully rendered woodprint animation—made using a method that was popular in the decades following the 1949 formation of the Peoples Republic of China—presents a dark portrait of the contemporary world.

Excerpts from select reviews and writings:

For Mainland Chinese viewers who are new to Sun Xun’s work, Some Actions Which Haven’t Been Defined Yet In The Revolution offers an unforgettable experience, akin to a waking dream. Coursing through the film’s narrative is the logic of dreams, its landscape a torrent of ineffable, dark emotions. The soundtrack—created by Jin Shan—only amplifies these feelings. Like fallen fragments, the film’s visual elements come directly from life, as everyday images and organisms. Yet under Sun’s cool and fractional treatment, these quotidian abstractions—detached from the circumstances under which they arise—become symbols that are eerie and parched of emotion.
- Liu Xi (translated by JiaJing Liu), LEAP

Now while the film only went for 13 minutes, it was animated entirely with woodcuts of which thousands were used! It takes me like a day at best to do one… and that’s not even with a lot of detail, I was stunned when I put into context even what a team of folks carving blocks would need to do to complete this project. As you can see by the stills I’ve found on the internet, the level of detail is not to shabby either. Just to clarify, the animated film was made up of the blocks, not animated prints on paper. So the grain of the wood and the negative space was brilliantly used as well to create some of the lines and effects.

- Alex Gillies, Against the Grain