Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Cinema on the Edge: Around That Winter
ago, someone long since forgotten said it takes a village to raise a child. If
that’s so, there are some drastically unbalanced villages raising kids in
China. In the provinces, it is not uncommon to find villages only populated by
the very old, the very young, and the very weird due to economic migration.
Such is the case with the home town of one big city resident in Wang Xiaozhen’s
Around That Winter, which screens as
part of Cinema on the Edge, a retrospective tribute to the Beijing Independent
Film Festival launching in New York at Anthology Film Archives.
film, meaning that produced without the government’s explicit sanction is flat-out
illegal in China. The government also exerts strict control over exhibitors as
well. About the only way for maverick filmmakers to show their work was through
independent festivals, like the Beijing Independent. It had been harassed since
its inception, but the government forcibly shuttered the short-lived yet
venerable institution in 2014. Clearly, this was a way to silence political
dissent. However, it also stifles films that are experimental or stylistically
idiosyncratic. Wang’s naturalistic yet slightly absurdist Winter is a perfect example of the latter.
should be an eventful homecoming for Xiaozhen, since his significant other, Zhou
Qing, would be meeting his parents for the first time, except they are not
there. Whatever they do, they need to do it somewhere else to make any sort of
money that way. It is not clear how long the couple will wait for them, but it
could definitely be considered a lost weekend. They will drink, smoke, bicker,
and have make-up sex amid the mean shabbiness of the crumbling village. Their
only company will be his senile grandmother; Yongshun, his spectacularly
foul-mouthed little nephew; Zige, an even younger and still innocent niece; and
Xiaozhen’s childhood friend, who is clearly a little off.
put it uncharitably, the three ostensive adults basically lay about while the
youngsters run wild. Ideologically speaking, Winter should hardly constitute a great threat to the People’s
Republic. However, the necessity of peeing in a crumbling masonry ruin of an
outhouse while a socially stunted perv peeks through the cracks might not be
the propaganda image the regime is trying to project.
there is something bizarrely anesthetizing about Wang’s severe black-and-white
vision. Strictly speaking, not a lot happens, but it is all pretty suggestive
of a state of malaise. In truth, the relationship between Xiaozhen and Zhou is
one of the most complicated and contentious you will see on screen, while still
being functional. As her namesake, Zhou Qing gives a remarkably earthy and
spirited performance, zestfully playing off the more reserved helmer, playing a
fictionalized (to some extent) analog of himself.
is an interesting film to help open Cinema on
the Edge, along with Luo Li’s even colder and more cerebral Emperor Visits the Hell. Wang’s film is
not exactly welcoming, but it is accessible, like a Raymond Carver story adapted
by Hong Sang-soo. Recommended for those with a taste for the intimate and the
off-kilter, Around That Winter screens
tomorrow (8/7) and Tuesday (8/11) as part of Cinema on the Edge at Anthology Film Archives.
Labels: Chinese Cinema, Cinema on the Edge