Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dispatches from Rotterdam: Capsules from Day Three

A Fish: Sadly this is sub-Lynchian rubbish consisting largely of weird things happening for no particular reason and to no particular effect. Actually, to be fair, the plot does eventually supply a reason but it only adds up to a slight gloss on the old "it was all a dream" ending, which is hardly sufficient to redeem 90 minutes full of bizarre happenings which aren't in the least bit disquieting. Part of the absence of disquiet can be attributed to the film's lead character whose near silence and almost complete lack of affect make him only marginally more interesting than any given inanimate object with which he shares the frame. Indeed watching him breakdown at the end is about as moving as watching a second-hand toaster breakdown.

As for the much ballyhooed 3D (The first such film in competition for a Tiger Award!), well, at least it's technically competent. No one would mistake it for the work of James Cameron or Wim Wenders but there are only minor defects, such as the occasional blurring of a foreground plane. However the 3D isn't actually exploited artistically, outside of maybe two sequences involving fog effects, which leads to the inescapable conclusion that it was used solely for the purpose of boosting the profile of a thoroughly lousy film.

Bachelor Mountain: Despite having been shot with a cruddy digital camera that all but gives up in low light and including multiple interviews with backlit subjects this is easily the best looking of the three documentaries I've seen so far. This is partially the result of the other directors being mostly disinterested in aesthetics and partially the result of Yu Guangy having a good eye for a beautiful establishing shot and being able to follow action smoothly. 

It also distinguishes itself from the other documentaries by being intensely interested in the daily life of its subject. In doing so it not only introduces and endears us to San Liangzi, a hard working forester with a hopeless crush, but also provides a narrow window on what China's uneven development means for the people on its margins. With only minimal use of interviews and title cards Yu Guangy shows us a country in which a dying forestry industry coexists with a blossoming eco-tourism sector, in which televisions sit alongside wood-fired stoves, and in which the process of urban migration has a real impact on those who are literally left behind.

No comments:

Post a Comment