Tharlo (2015)

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THARLO-3What a beautiful and sad film. Set in Tibet, we first meet Tharlo (pronounced tarlo), or Ponytail as he is used to being called, as he recites the words of Mao Tse-tung that he learned by heart when he was nine. He speaks of death being inevitable but not all deaths being the same significance; death after serving the people is ‘heavier than Mount Tai’ but death after serving the fascists is ‘as light as a feather’. He is reciting this to the local police chief who remarks that, with such a memory, he had great promise as a child and his forty years as shepherd, building up a small living, is a waste. Continue reading

Kaili Blues

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KAILI-BLUES-03It’s never a good sign when you are hoping a film is about to end, that this scene will be the final one. Not that Kaili Blues is terrible, there is a lot to recommend about it, it just seemed to get lost halfway through and then keep going. And going. Continue reading

Behemoth

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BEHEMOTH-3I like to be shown rather than told and this Chinese documentary about the vast coal mines of Inner Mongolia did just that. Made up of dialogue-free footage, we are taken on an absorbing and sobering visual journey. The behemoth of the title refers to the monster of the Bible who devours mountains and, through a loose translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, we journey through the Purgatory, Hell and Paradise of China’s insatiable appetite for industrial production. Continue reading

What’s in the Darkness

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WHAT'S-IN-THE-DARKNESS-01I took the advice of my husband this morning and ditched the Romanian drama Sieranevada. His advice was to make sure I enjoyed my MIFF experience and to not make it hard work. My MIFF buddy Alex pointed out that Sieranevada is nearly three hours long and I just didn’t feel like it. Instead, I booked this Chinese drama, What’s in the Darkness, that reads like a Nancy Drew set in rural China. It isn’t. Strangely, it is not so different from last night’s The Demons. Continue reading

Red Amnesia

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It’s only at the end of this slow, quiet Chinese drama that you realise the significance of the title. I won’t explain it here, it’s something worth finding out for yourself. It takes a while for this film to reveal itself. You follow an older widow, Deng, as she leads a solitary life in urban Beijing. She turns up at her sons’ houses unannounced to cook them food, much to their annoyance and the chagrin of one daughter-in-law. She visits her aged mother in a nursing home. The sense is that she is pragmatic, maybe something of a martyr. She talks to her dead husband. Sometimes we see him there too, listening in silence. There is a thread here about generations and the obligations of child to parent, so intrinsic once but now changing.  Continue reading