This movie, directed by the Chinese director, Jia Zhangke, brought me clarity about what we have been talking about lately in our class. I believe that it has the formal attributes to be considered an example of modern cinema.
The use of the long shots and depth of field and the approach to a reality intertwining fiction and documentary are the two characteristics that I would like to highlight.
The long shot takes us to another time within time and to another space within space. From the credits scene to the opening scene to the last scene we are transported to the history of factory 420, to the history of the expectation in a modern Chinese society, to the history of the characters, to the history of China, to the history of image and to the history of cinema.
The power of the long shots puts the viewer in touch with the subject even if we lost track of what they are telling, it doesn’t matter. One has so much time to delight in the image, to find the beauty where there is no apparent beauty, that the words of the speakers became just texture, not words anymore. Furthermore it is possible to apprehend history in layers, first the layer of the history of the character, second the layer of the history that this character are in touch with, third the layer of the history of image.
The framing, use of long shots, long takes and depth of field in this film took me back in time to Citizen Kane. Most of the shots used windows, mirrors and the architectural structure to create the framing within the framing. The camera movement occurs only when is absolutely necessary Je Zhangke is capable of generate a film experience, “a moment of awareness”. I’m sure that I will forget the whole story but the images will remain. The same image becomes 1000 images as in Citizen Kane, the transparencies, the mirrors, the windows makes the viewer fly more that just see. I wonder is here is an explanation or a link to what Deleuze meant when he was talking about the crystal image.
The feeling of being face to face with the exceptional characters that he brings to the screen is exceptionally convey in the scene of two men looking at the camera until they laugh, they laugh and the viewer laugh at the same time. They are looking at us and we are looking at them, is a game. I felt that the director was laughing too, making fun of him self, criticizing his own proposal.
Other aspect that interested me was the blend of documentary and fiction, stressing the boundaries between these two genders, just as in Neorealism. He plays another mirror game with the actress Joan Chen whose nickname is Little Flower. She is playing the role of Gu Minhua in 24 city and in her story she talks about how the people in the factory used to tell her Little Flower because she was very similar to this actress. I believe that these games bring to scene the inherent question of reality in cinema.
Finally I will like to say, that with this film I understood the power of the time image as the generator of a unique and whole reality, just A reality not THE reality It does not matter if it is documentary or fiction. Some might complain that he is leaving behind “the moral contract” with the viewer but I believe that he is generating a new relation between him and his work and between his work and the viewer. He is bringing back the “aesthetic contract”.