VIFF 2015: Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke, 2015)

RGB tiff image by MetisIP

 Part of our coverage of the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival. This review is by Vancouver-based critic Neil Bahadur.

The most ambitious film so far from the great director Jia Zhangke, working in a gorgeous, cyclical structure that it might make it too easy to disregard the film’s more provocative aspects. Jia has been obsessed with the globalization of China since day one, but what is different here is the syphoning of aspects of contemporary China into three broken segments, each of which purport to be a narrative-driven family melodrama. But what seems youthful naivete is rather the fading of a culture, what seems disillusionment of middle-age is the economic collapse of the world we live in today. . . so the earnestness of the film’s final third is the only response possible to the removal of culture entirely. Jia’s 2025 is a fairy-tale world, a complete fantasy wherein this (actually very conventional) three-act structure, surrealism is fully integrated into this narrative sense. And because of the disparity between this part and the first two, this approach disconcerts rather than shocks or provokes. The movie is a series of Brechtian devices which exhaust themselves, and so the only option left is to wear its heart on its sleeve.

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