Where The Leaves Fall

****

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Where The Leaves Fall
"You Guolin's cinematography is crisp, a combination of lens and grading that feels old without feeling tired."

Xin Alessandro Zheng's film opens with ritual, the lighting of incense in the shadow of a mountain. "I need the exact address" the first words, as much an indicator of the distance between a visitor and their destination as the pritine suitcase buckled into the seat. Subtleties of place and people within them.

Now we bow three times, doubly subtitled, English, Italian. Paramount Leader, Uncle Xi looks over the proceedings. These are small spaces, a Dutch angle on the tight staircase of grandfather's apartment is at once claustrophobic and comforting. The dancers on the riverbank, the lanterns on the street, through them young Giacamo's place in this place becomes at once more and less certain.

Grandfather and grandson, talking about their son, father. Sunlight on the flasks and bottles in the window, reflections on the silvered door. A tailored camel-coloured coat its clean lines in contrast to the battered blue metals of the motor-trike. Fog lifts from the hillside, clouds settle on the trees. It is a matter of perspective. To go "outside", to return. These are the fates of everyone of and connected to small towns, be they the outskirts of Napoli of Two Cents Worth Of Hope or outposts of tradition in the modern China of Ascension.

The contrasts within costuming are as simple as wide and narrow stripes, the vertical, the horizontal. The contrasts within geography the serried stone of the graveyard against the ranked concrete of the tower blocks behind. The camera often close it is in the gesture and the looking away that attention to detail tells. Moments of these two performances, moments of film-making. There is a slow retreat of the camera that builds tension with a minimal efficiency that is hypnotic.

You Guolin's cinematography is crisp, a combination of lens and grading that feels old without feeling tired. Some colours muted, reds, blues, within a labyrinth of tradition. Its two central performances similarly muted, within the maze of family. Giulio Anan Cai and Zheng Wuyi as the returnee Giacomo, grandfather Nonno achieve that complicated and awkward intergenerational chemistry of relatives unmoderated by the interstitial.

This is a piece whose small scale and gentle pace increase its impacts. There is a poetry to it, as many subtleties as reflections. Before the leaves fall the passage of time makes some golden, and this is as much a treasure.

Reviewed on: 11 Oct 2021
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Giacomo, a young second-generation Italian-Chinese student, travels to the Chinese county of Wencheng to bring back the ashes of his late father.

Director: Xin Alessandro Zheng

Writer: Xin Alessandro Zheng

Starring: Giulio Cai, Wuyi Zheng

Year: 2020

Runtime: 16 minutes

Country: Italy

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