Still Life

Still Life


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Three Gorges Dam Project has, understandably, provided a rich vein of inspiration for Chinese filmmakers in the past couple of years. The project to establish the largest capacity hydroelectric power station in the world has required the flooding of the Yangtze River basin, leading to the displacement of more than 1.5 million people, as their towns were flooded in the name of progress.

The changing landscape is eloquently documented in Yung Chang’s Up The Yangtze, while Jia Zhang-Ke uses the rising waters as a backdrop for his drama about a man’s search for the daughter he hasn’t seen in more than a decade.

More of a mood piece than a strong narrative tale, this surprise winner of the Golden Lion at 2006’s Venice Festival is as much an exploration of emotional and cultural problems in modern day China, as it is the tale of one man’s (Sanming Han) lost love. Parallel stories unfold, as a woman (Zhao Tao) also comes to town looking for her errant husband, but rising above the narrative is an exploration of the trauma experienced by those forced to quit their homes to make way for the river with little or no provision.

By setting what action there is in a town that was actually in the process of being demolished to make way for the river lends the whole a documentary air, with the town of Fengjie, where the action is set, as much of a character as the people who live there. Although the slow-moving interplay may not be for everyone, those willing to go with the ebb and flow of the narrative will find much that resonates at an emotional level.

Reviewed on: 02 Feb 2008
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Parallel stories of the search for lost love set against the backdrop of the Three Gorges Dam Project.

Director: Jia Zhang-Ke

Writer: Jia Zhang-Ke, Guan Na, Sun Jiamin

Starring: Zhao Tao, Han Sanming, Li Zhubin, Wang Hong Wei

Year: 2006

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: China, Hong Kong

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Up The Yangtze