Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
VIFF ’15: Kaili Blues
Sheng is a much better uncle to his beloved nephew than his half-brother Crazy
Face is a father to young Weiwei. Chen is also a medical doctor and a published
poet, yet he is the one with a criminal record. Life is complicated for Chen,
but he will have the opportunity reflect on his choices in proper Proustian
fashion during the course of Bi Gan’s Kaili
which screens during the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival.
bought into a medical practice established by the older Guang Lian in
southeastern Kaili City. Except for Crazy Face, it is mostly quiet there, but
that suits him fine. He tries to supply Weiwei with the things his father
cannot or will not provide, so it greatly concerns him to hear Crazy Face may
have sold the boy. Chen sets out after Weiwei, but a detour through provincial
Dangmai holds unexpected significance. Time seems to warp for the medical poet,
as he encounters a teenager who seems to be the Weiwei of the future and a
hairdresser who is the spitting image of his late wife, Zhang Xi.
Blues is not exactly a
plot driven film—and what narrative there is unfolds rather elliptically.
However, as a mood piece it is pretty potent stuff. It is also visually quite
striking, especially the Rope-like centerpiece
sequence, in which the camera follows Chen and Yangyang, the older Weiwei’s
sort of girlfriend as they walk throughout nearly every inch of the city and
traverse back and forth across the river in a single, unbroken forty minute
take. It is a technically accomplished bit of filmmaking, but it really works
because Dangmai and the surrounding lush, verdant mountains are so wildly
it looks great, but Chen Yongzhong’s scrupulously restrained performance is
surprisingly powerful, in a hushed kind of way. He completely convinces us this
is a man with an unresolved past. Though she only appears briefly, Liu Linyan is
exquisitely arresting and vulnerable as the woman resembling Zhang Xi. Guo Yue
is also terrific as Yangyang, subtly conveying her dissatisfaction and
uncertainty for the future.
In most respects, Blues is a decidedly nonpolitical film, but occasional references
to the disappearing Miao culture (that of the ethnic minority to which Bi
belongs) peek through here and there. This is absolutely not a film for those
who hold conventional tastes. Frankly, Bi does not want their patronage, so he
is not about to compromise for their sake. The results can be glacial at times,
but Wang Tianxing’s cinematography is lovely to look at and there is a real
emotional center to it all. Recommended for admirers of slow cinema, Kaili Blues screens Sunday (9/27) and
Wednesday (9/30), as part of this year’s VIFF.
Labels: Chinese Cinema, VIFF '15