top of page
  • dgeneratefilms

Jia Zhangke Retrospective at MoMA in March

From the Museum of Modern Art press release:

Jia Zhangke: A Retrospective is the first complete U.S. retrospective of this internationally celebrated contemporary filmmaker who, in little more than a decade, has become one of cinema’s most critically acclaimed artists and the leading figure of the sixth generation of Chinese filmmakers. The exhibition screens in The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters from March 5 through 20, 2010, and includes Jia Zhangke’s (Chinese, b. 1970) entire oeuvre: eight features and six shorts, dating from 1995 to 2008. The retrospective is organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

The director will be at MoMA with Zhao Tao – his leading actress since her debut in Zhantai (Platform) (2000) – to introduce most of his films at screenings between the opening night film on Friday, March 5, at 7:00 p.m. of Shijie (The World) (2004), through the screening on Monday, March 8 at 4:00 p.m. of Black Breakfast (2008) and Sanxia haoren (Still Life) (2006). Jia will also participate in a special Modern Mondays event at MoMA on the evening of March 8 at 7:00 p.m., where he will discuss his recent films and present two shorts and a sneak preview of a segment of his upcoming feature, Shanghai Chuan Qi (I Wish I Knew, 2010), followed by a discussion.

Full press release and schedule after the break.

Merging a gritty realist style with elegant camera movements and postmodern flourishes, Jia tackles contemporary subject matter in both documentary and fiction projects, often fusing the two approaches to great effect. He has created a body of work that reflects on the enormous physical and interpersonal changes in Chinese society over the past 50 years. Jia Zhangke‘s films resonate with both domestic and international audiences due to his original combination of a sophisticated aesthetic with plainspoken integrity.

The films illuminate the transformations taking place in China‘s environment, architecture, and society, by placing everyday people in the midst of a landscape in turmoil. Aiming to restore the concrete memory of place and to evoke individual history in a rapidly modernizing society, the filmmaker recovers the immediate past in order to imagine the future. His films reflect reality truthfully, while simultaneously using fantasy and a distinct artistic vision to pose existential questions about life and status in a society in flux. Through rigorous specificity, his art attains universal scope and appeal.

An inspiration to fellow filmmakers, Jia has devised an original, ever-evolving, contemporary filmmaking style with a porous, symbiotic relationship between the real and the imagined. His works are cast with amateurs as well as professional actors, and he uses fluid camera movements to deconstruct space, adapt its movements, and position its subject matter. These are prominent aspects of all the director‘s films, and are essential to his storytelling technique and to the remarkable texture of his films.

Jia Zhangke‘s beautifully calibrated 2008 dramatic short Heshang aiquing (Cry Me a River), pays homage to an earlier film from the Golden Era of Chinese filmmaking, the 1948 Chinese classic Xiao Cheng Zhi Chun (Spring in a Small Town), directed by Fei Mu, which also screens at MoMA as part of this retrospective. The retrospective is made possible with the support of Xstream Pictures (Eva Lam, Project Manager); The Sarajevo Film Festival (Howard Feinstein, Programmer); and Tzu-Wen Cheng. Prints Courtesy of Zeitgeist Films; New Yorker Films; Cinema Guild; Memento/Artscope; China Film Archive; Art for the World; Xstream; Celluloid Dreams; and Sidus Pictures.


Jia Zhangke: A Retrospective March 5–20, 2010

Friday, March 5

7:00 Shijie (The World). 2004. China/Japan/France. With Zhao Tao, Chen Taisheng, Jing Jue. Fake landscapes contain real problems in this epic postmodern parable about China‘s cultural renovation. A Las Vegas–style theme park on the outskirts of Beijing is the setting for a sort of backstage musical in which the personal dramas of a group of youthful employees play out against a background of small-scale replicas of the Eiffel Tower, the World Trade Center, and other famous landmarks. Jia‘s beautifully choreographed wide- screen shots capture kitschy shows held in “national pavilions” that demonstrate the park‘s motto: “See the world without ever leaving Beijing.” This ravishing portrait of a delusional China illustrates the difficulty of maintaining interpersonal relationships in a cultural wasteland. In Mandarin, Shanxi, Russian; English subtitles. 143 min. Introduced by Jia Zhangke, and actress Zhao Tao.

Saturday, March 6

5:00 Ren xiao yao (Unknown Pleasures). 2002. China/South Korea/Japan/France. With Zhao Weiwei, Wu Qiong, Zhao Tao. Two teenage slackers drift towards tragedy in Datong, a once-vibrant industrial city (and Jia‘s birthplace). Pop culture and electronic gadgets provide their only feelings of connection to the outside world – and to their own aimless lives. Working with a small high-definition camera for the first time, the director memorably tracks through the vast empty spaces of the former textile mills, in stark contrast to the city‘s crowded housing projects and teeming streets. In Mandarin, English; English subtitles. 113 min. Introduced by Jia Zhangke, and actress Zhao Tao.

8:00 Gou de zhuang kuang (The Condition of Dogs). 2001. China. Puppies are stuffed into a burlap sack for sale at a market. 6 min.

Er shi si cheng ji (24 City). 2008. China/Hong Kong/Japan. With Joan Chen, Lv Liping, Zhao Tao, Chen Jianbin. In 24 City, an enormous factory building that is being converted into luxury apartments, three generations of workers give testimony about communal life in what was once a state-owned munitions factory. In this hybrid “fictional documentary,” which witnesses‘ stories and memories are relayed by a potent blend of amateurs and well-known actors, adding compelling layers of artifice to the “real” process of remembering. In Mandarin; English subtitles. 112 min. Introduced by Jia Zhangke, and actress Zhao Tao.

Sunday, March 7

2:00 Zhantai (Platform). 2000. China/Hong Kong/Japan/France. With Wang Hongwei, Zhao Tao, Liang Jingdong. Jia‘s camera follows the lives of a touring performance troupe through one of China‘s most radical periods of economic and social change (1979–89). Focusing more on character and place than on any one plot, the director follows individual stories of the youthful cast, whose personal dreams and aspirations change as radically as the name of their troupe: from The Peasant Culture Group of Fenyang to All-Star Rock ‘n‘ Breakdance Electronic Band. Liberally dotted with dance numbers and featuring a rich soundtrack of pop songs, political broadcasts, and incidental goings-on, the film offers an insightful exploration of how policy shifts affect individuals. In Mandarin, Shanxi; English subtitles.155 min Introduced by Jia Zhangke, and actress Zhao Tao.

5:30 Xiao Wu (Pickpocket). 1997. China/Hong Kong. With Wang Hongwei, Hao Hongjian, Zuo Baitao. A milestone in new Chinese independent cinema, Pickpocket is a devastating portrait of a young, under-motivated former petty thief, his fascination with a karaoke hostess, and the cop who pursues him. Jia made the film for less than $50,000 in his home town, capturing the city‘s chaotic streets with his energetic handheld-camera style and an expertly mixed soundtrack. In Mandarin; English subtitles. 105 min. Introduced by Jia Zhangke.

Monday, March 8

4:00 Black Breakfast. 2008. With Zhao Tao. A segment from the omnibus film Stories on Human Rights, a collective film project by ART for The World. No dialogue. 5 min. and Sanxia haoren (Still Life). 2006. China/Hong Kong. With Zhao Tao, Han Sanming. Two tenuously connected narratives of a man and a woman in search of their migrant worker spouses are played out against the changing landscape of the enormous Three Gorges Dam project. The urgency of imminent flooding, the physicality of the workers preparing the buildings, and an all-pervasive background of fundamental change is contrasted with these two small figures tenaciously traversing the enormous landscape on their personal quests. Exceedingly surreal visual phenomena highlight the film‘s general feeling of absurdity. In Mandarin; English subtitles. 111 min. Introduced by Jia Zhangke, and actress Zhao Tao.

7:00 Modern Mondays: An Evening with Jia Zhangke. Screening of Wo Men De Shi Nian (Ten Years) (2007, 9 min.); Shi Nian (Remembrance) (2008, 10 min.); and excerpt/sneak preview from new film Shanghai Chuan Qi (I Wish I Knew) (2010), followed by a discussion with Jia Zhangke.

Wednesday, March 10

4:30 Wu Yong (Useless). 2007. China/Hong Kong. Designer Ma Ke‘s line of painstakingly handmade ?anti-fashion? clothing, ?Useless,? starkly contrasts China‘s soulless assembly-line clothing industry. Useless captures the quiet elegance of artisanal clothing production and independent tailoring businesses, which are increasingly threatened by the rapid proliferation of fabric sweatshops. In Shanxi, Cantonese, Mandarin, English, French; English subtitles. 80 min. and Dong (East). 2006 China/Hong Kong. This documentary is divided into two loosely connected parts. Jia follows Chinese artist Liu Xiaodong to Fengjie, a town doomed by the Three Gorges Dam project, where Liu paints the workers on wide canvases. Afterward they travel to Bangkok, where Liu paints young “bar girls.” In Mandarin, Thai; English subtitles. 66 min.

8:00 Gong Gong Chang Suo (In Public). 2001. China. People stand alone or briefly interact in public spaces, including a train station, a pool hall, and a bus stop. No dialogue. 30 min. and Xiao Shan Hui Jia (Xiao Shan Going Home). 1995. China. With Wang Hongwei, Zhou Xiaomin, Zhu Liqin, Yao Sheng. Jia‘s amazing thesis film, made with friends from the Young Experimental Filmmakers Club, caught the eye of producers when it was shown at the Hong Kong Short Film Festival. The plight of China‘s migrant workers is a recurring theme in the director‘s subsequent work, and here he explores the story of a cook trying to find fellow travelers for a journey from Beijing to his hometown for New Year‘s. The film is a master class in texture – the characters speak a regional dialect, the handheld camera work takes on the manic rhythm of the streets, and various texts anchoring the narrative in daily minutia are intermittently superimposed over the onscreen images. In Mandarin; English subtitles. 58 min.

Thursday, March 11

4:00 Xiao Wu (Pickpocket). (See Sunday, March 7, 5:30.)

7:00 Xiao cheng zhi chun (Spring in a Small Town). 1948. China. Directed by Fei Mu. With Wei Wei, Shi Yu, Li Wei, Cui Chaoming. This classic Chinese film is greatly admired by Jia, and was a major influence on his Cry Me a River. Fei‘s exquisite melodrama is set in a provincial town, where a young woman caring for her sickly husband is tempted by an old love – her husband‘s friend and doctor. The film perfectly captures the brief period between the end of World War II and the Chinese Revolution. In Mandarin; English subtitles. 93 min. and Heshang aiqing (Cry Me a River). 2008. China/Spain/France. With Zhao Tao, Hao Lei, Guo Xiaodong, Wang Hongwei. This perfect gem of a film was shot in the city of Suzhou, with its canals and graceful old buildings reminiscent of Venice. When four former classmates (two ex-couples) meet to celebrate an old professor‘s birthday, youthful dreams and attractions are met by the reality of adult responsibilities and tradition, leading to sadness and regret as penetrating as the cold dampness of the city‘s canals. In Mandarin; English subtitles. 19 min.

Friday, March 12

4:00 Gou De Zhuang Kuang (The Condition of Dogs). and Er Shi Si Cheng Ji (24 City). 2008. (See Saturday, March 6, 8:00.)

7:00 Wu Yong (Useless). and Dong. (See Wednesday, March 10, 4:30.)

Saturday, March 13

2:00 Gong Gong Chang Suo (In Public). and Xiao Shan Hui Jia (Xiao Shan Going home). (See Wednesday, March 10, 8:00.)

4:00 Zhantai (Platform). 2000. (See Sunday, March 7, 2:00.)

Sunday, March 14

2:00 Shijie (The World). (See Friday , March 5, 7:00.)

5:00 Black Breakfast. and Sanxia Haoren (Still Life). (See Monday, March 8, 4:00.)

Wednesday, March 17

7:30 Ren Xiao Yao (Unknown Pleasures). (See Saturday, March 6, 5:00.)

Saturday, March 20

2:00 Xiao Cheng Zhi Chun (Spring in a Small Town). and Heshang Aiqing (Cry Me a River). (See Thursday, March 11, 7:00.)


bottom of page