19 May 2013 | schwabbeldiwauwau
interesting, surreal and kind of pointless
Jiang Wen is pretty much the most popular mainland Chinese director/actor at present. But whenever I watch any of his movies I can't help feeling that it might be useful being Chinese myself so I could better catch more of the social commentary and humor, which are apparently plentiful in all of his movies. But I am not Chinese, and so Jiang Wen is one of the few directors, whose movies leave me behind feeling stupid and somehow a little guilty for not "getting them", because there is supposedly so much to "get"...
But I also can't help feeling that his movies are pretending to be more than they really are. This is especially true for this movie, which I enjoyed the least of the three Jiang Wen movies I have seen so far (the other two being "Devils on the Doorstep" and "Let the Bullets Fly"). The set-up is really nice, there are interesting characters and stories introduced. First we see one story in one part of the country, then another story in another part of the country, then one character from the second story going to the first setting and encountering characters from there, and then we get to see a flash-back which ties it all together and wraps the whole thing up. And it all works out pretty nicely with very, very beautiful music and sometimes hilarious scenes going on.
BUT there is constantly some surreal sh!t happening that doesn't make any sense at all! We have a goat falling from a tree, a piece of grass and dirt floating on a stream leading to a house built with round rocks, a man committing suicide right after all his problems have been solved and a girl giving birth to a baby on a moving train while she is peeing through a hole on the track, thus dropping the baby on the flower covered train track - just to name a few of those moments. I've read that these events are for the most part supposed to symbolize the crazy futility of the cultural revolution, which is the time-setting of the majority of the film. What?! Really?! Come on! I'm sure there are better ways to depict the futility of the cultural revolution than having something completely (!) random happening in the movie all the time...
Another thing that i found pretty annoying is that Jiang Wen seems to like using unresolved plot lines as a cheap means to have people discuss and think about the movie afterwards. He simply has plot lines ending abruptly or not showing them any more. That doesn't make it deeper, it just makes it a bigger mess.
If you want to watch a movie by Jiang Wen, don't start with this one!