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‘An Elephant Sitting Still’ Review: The First and Last Masterpiece of a Great Filmmaker Gone Too Soon

‘An Elephant Sitting Still’ Review: The First and Last Masterpiece of a Great Filmmaker Gone Too Soon

It’s tempting to think of “An Elephant Sitting Still” as a suicide note written with blood in a dirty patch of hard snow. Hard to sit through and impossible to forget, this torpid four-hour anti-drama is suffused with the sort of hopelessness that cinema only sees every once in a long while (Werner Herzog’s “Stroszek” and Béla Tarr’s “The Turin Horse” come to mind), and the man who made it — a former student of Tarr’s — killed himself before the world premiere of his monolithic first (and last) feature. His name was Hu Bo, and he was 29 years old.

Hu had reportedly been feuding with his financiers, who wanted to cut the running time in half. But to presume the role that may have played in his death would be as problematic as assimilating Hu’s suicide — which inevitably casts a long shadow over the film — into

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