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LA Times Feature on LA Chinese Cinema Series, special mention on Oxhide 2

Oxhide II (dir. Liu Jiayin)

In the lead-up to the ten-film, five-venue series “Between Disorder and Unexpected Pleasures: New Chinese Cinema,” Reed Johnson in The Los Angeles Times gives a lengthy feature exploring the series and interviewing its co-curators, Cheng-Sim Lim and Berenice Reynaud.

The article introduces the series in the context of Chinese cinema history, following the Fifth and Sixth Generations of Chinese filmmakers. In contrast, the current wave of largely digital filmmaking is more numerous in quantity and diverse in approach:

“I call it this sort of flowering of many voices,” says Cheng-Sim Lim, a film scholar who co-curated “Between Disorder.” “You have this breaking up of this very unitary view of Chinese film.”

Reynaud offers additional context in the way of how these films are seen in China: “You have film clubs, cafes, you have also a number of websites where you can download independent video for free, [and] you have a lot of little film societies.”

The article touches on nearly every film in the series, but gives special attention to Liu Jiayin’s Oxhide II:

Among the most startlingly original movies is “Oxhide II,” a sequel by the young female director Liu Jiayin to her stunning, self-financed “Oxhide I” (2004), which she shot in Cinemascope in her parents’ 50-square-meter apartment/kitchen/workshop in southern Beijing, where the family scratches out a living by making purses. Casting her real-life parents as themselves and deploying a single, stationary camera, the writer-director combines carefully choreographed body movements and seemingly incidental but actually scripted dialogue in tightly framed shots, producing a claustrophobic and harrowing, yet disarmingly humorous narrative of a family’s inner tensions. The banal rituals of daily life take on surprising significance as Liu reveals her skill as a miniaturist master and her deep empathy toward characters struggling to break free of physical and social confines. Reynaud compares the way the “Oxhide” films unfold to the method of spreading out and reading a classical Chinese scroll painting. “What they borrow from the scroll is the absence of a vanishing point, the absence of a master gaze and, very importantly, the use of negative space,” she says.

The series begins Wednesday, April 6. More information here.


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