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Still Life
Still Life
Actors: Wang Hong Wei, Zhao Tao, Zhou Lin, Han Sanming, Li Zhubin
Director: Jia Zhang Ke
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
UR     2008     1hr 48min

In Still Life, great changes have come to the town of Fengjie due to the construction of the Three Gorges hydro project on the Yangtze River. Countless families that had lived there for many generations have had to relocat...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Wang Hong Wei, Zhao Tao, Zhou Lin, Han Sanming, Li Zhubin
Director: Jia Zhang Ke
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: New Yorker Video
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 11/25/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2006
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2006
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 48min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Mandarin Chinese
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

The New New Wave
Thomas Caron | Shanghai | 11/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Of all the great films coming out of China these days, none are more representative of "the real China" than the movies of Jia Zhang Ke. Combining a semi-documentary approach with an occasional touch of surrealism, his hi-def digital video renditions of the lives of ordinary Chinese adapting to the most vertiginous change in the history of the world are eye-popping and achingly beautiful. A must for anyone who cares about the cutting-edge of cinema."
Digging Up the Past, Burying the Present, Building the Futur
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 12/02/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Still Life" was written and directed by Sixth Generation Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-Ke, who brings a documentarian's style to this fictional drama inspired by the upheaval that the incredible Three Gorges Dam project has created. Two people from the city of Shanxi travel south to what is left of Fengjie to look for people from their past. Han Sanming (Han Sanming) is trying to find his ex-wife who took their young daughter and left him 16 years ago. Shen Hong (Zhao Tao) hasn't heard from her husband in 2 years and journeys to Fengjie, where he is a manager for the Demolition Authority, to confront him. Fengjie is a 2000-year-old town in the process of being demolished in 2 years, as it is gradually flooded, with much of the Old City already submerged.

"Still Life" is shot and scripted in a "cinema verite" style with a conspicuously slow, contemplative pace. It doesn't ever speed up, but it did eventually lull me into its languid universe. It is a mediation on people's relationship to the past and to life's forward motion. Sanming and Hong have come to Fengjie to either reclaim their past or to let it go. There is an archeological dig across the river, ironically digging up relics from thousands of years ago, as the town of Fengjie is demolished and buried, while the great Three Gorges Dam is constructed. Director Jia Zhang-Ke has delicately highlighted the strange cultural and social implications of China's massive infrastructure project, where past, present, and future meet head-on. It is clear which is winning, but which should win is less certain. In Mandarin with optional English subtitles.

The DVD (New Yorker Films 2008): The documentary "Dong" (1 hour, 10 min) is included on the disc. This is a loosely structured film about the artist Liu Xiaodong which first introduced Jia Zhang-Ke to the Three Gorges region. There is an "Interview with Jia Zhang-Ke" (18 min) in which he speaks about the film's structure, themes, his documentary approach, visual style, and the Sixth Generation emphasis on the personal and individual. There is also a theatrical trailer (2 min) and a Press Kit and interview with the director in DVD-ROM form, which can be accessed on a Windows or Mac computer. The film and bonus features are in Mandarin with optional English subtitles. The white subtitles can be a little difficult to read at times and would have been better in yellow."
Transcends Linear Plot Driven Films
Mike Liddell | Massachusetts | 02/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"For American Audiences who don't like the unfamiliar feeling of a different language and location can feel at home with the political decisions that damned the homes, neighborhoods, and residents in the film who out of desperation work in unsafe working conditions. Director Zhang Ke Jia does however leave viewers with a positive feeling of the human bonds the workers find with each other on the battle field of life."
An Uncertain Pace
Martin Asiner | Jersey City, NJ | 10/27/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"STILL LIFE challenges some basic assumptions not just about how life is lived in the wastelands of urbanized China but also about how film directors can record this pace. Director Jia Zhang Ke responds by taking a tack that is alien to the minds of American audiences that are accustomed to the standard beginning, middle, and end of Hollywood plots liberally sprinkled by action, sex, or romance. Here Ke strives to replicate the rhythms of life as they are experienced by those who are actually there. The actors are all amateurs, but their collective talents lie not in individual scenes of great power but in a montage of scenes of incremental strength. There is the natural tendency for western audiences to be turned off by what seems a superficially glacially slow pace of plot. Things seem to take forever to happen and when they do, no big deal is made. The actors simply go on to the next scene, but what is really going on is that change is happening even if that change is internal. The viewer must look at facial expression and body language to determine that. It is precisely here that western audiences have difficulty. This is a cultural attribute but for those who endure past the midpoint, the results are worth it. What is the plot? A coal miner travels to Fengzhie to reclaim a wife and daughter taken from him by the police sixteen years earlier. In a parallel story, a nurse travels to the same city to reclaim a husband who abandoned her two years before. One succeeds and one fails. Other critics have noted an allegorical subtext of the search for a previous civilization even as the current one is being literally dismantled brick by brick. Now this interpretation is pretty heavy fare for a movie that seems to slow down one's mental processes to match the tempo of the cast while at the same time to speed things up by requiring you to think outside the allegorical box. STILL LIFE is a well chosen title. Whether it refers to a pace that reflects the static inertia of a painting or the buzzing of life that occurs just beneath the surface is a function of what the viewer brings to the cinematic table."