二次曝光 | Double Xposure

Double Xposure

Since debuting with her first feature Fish and Elephant in 2001, director Li Yu has gone from rough-and-ready documentary realism with non-professional actors to working with some of the biggest Chinese stars. This stylish and briskly paced psychological thriller, her fifth and visually most ambitious feature yet, plumbs thriller staples of dualities and doubling in dizzying permutations – past indistinguishable from present, reality entangled with illusion, guilt and terror shadowing feelings of love – to a clincher of an ending. Joan Chen in a supporting role impresses, as does Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing, playing a young urbanite whose façade of certainties and comforts – boyfriend, apartment and car – violently splinters in a moment of jealousy.

Directed by Yu Li | Starring : Bingbing Fan, Joan Chen, Shaofeng Feng, Siyan Huo, Anlian Yao | Presented at N/A

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二十四城记 | 24 City

24 City

A masterful film from Jia Zhang-ke, the renowned director chronicles the dramatic closing of a once-prosperous state-owned aeronautics factory in Chengdu, a city in Southwest China, and its conversion into a sprawling luxury apartment complex. Bursting with poetry, pop songs and striking visual detail, the film weaves together unforgettable stories from three generations of workers – some real, some played by actors – into a vivid portrait of the human struggle behind China’s economic miracle.

Directed by Zhang Ke Jia | Starring : Tao Zhao, Joan Chen, Jianbin Chen, Liping Lü | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Sao Paulo Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, London Film Festival, Mar del Plata Film Festival, Torino Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Glasgow Film Festival, Cleveland Film Festival, Wisconsin Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro Film Festival, St. Louis Film Festival

太阳照常升起 | The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises

Wen Jiang’s personality takes center stage in The Sun Also Rises, his first effort since the 2000 Devils on the Doorstep, a film that has yet to be released in China. While The Sun Also Rises captivates with its sumptuous colors, magical realism, high energy, and outstanding performances, its elliptical plot and lack of coherent narrative suggests that Jiang may have purposely clouded the film’s meaning in symbols and code to escape the Chinese censors. Loosely based on author Ye Mi’s novel Velvet, the film is set in China during the Cultural Revolution. There are four stories and six characters in the film, but they have a tenuous connection to each other. Three episodes are set in the 1970s and one twenty years earlier, but Jiang provides no intertitles or other indicators to help the viewer recognize changes in theme, time, or place. As the film opens with a tableau of gorgeous colors and people running, a young woman identified as the mother of a teenage boy buys a pair of embroidered shoes. The colorful shoes are promptly stolen by a mysterious bird, which repeats the mantra “I know, I know, I know,” and the woman falls into what seems to be madness—climbing trees, collecting rocks, digging a pit in the middle of the forest, and screaming the name of Alyosha (which we eventually learn was the name of the boy’s father). Meanwhile her dutiful son tries to protect her, at the cost of having to constantly leave his job. The segment is playful, magical, and poetic in its songs and poetry, and it suggests that insanity reigned supreme during the Cultural Revolution.

Directed by Wen Jiang | Starring : Wen Jiang, Joan Chen, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Jaycee Chan, Wei Kong | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Changchun Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival

色,戒 | Lust, Caution

Lust Caution

Shanghai, 1942. The World War II Japanese occupation of this Chinese city continues in force. Mrs. Mak, a woman of sophistication and means, walks into a café, places a call, and then sits and waits. She remembers how her story began several years earlier, in 1938 China. She is not in fact Mrs. Mak, but shy Wong Chia Chi. With WWII underway, Wong has been left behind by her father, who has escaped to England. As a freshman at university, she meets fellow student Kuang Yu Min. Kuang has started a drama society to shore up patriotism. As the theater troupe’s new leading lady, Wong realizes that she has found her calling, able to move and inspire audiences and Kuang. He convenes a core group of students to carry out a radical and ambitious plan to assassinate a top Japanese collaborator, Mr. Yee. Each student has a part to play; Wong will be Mrs. Mak, who will gain Yees’ trust by befriending his wife and then draw the man into an affair. Wong transforms herself utterly inside and out, and the scenario proceeds as scripted until an unexpectedly fatal twist spurs her to flee. Shanghai, 1941. With no end in sight for the occupation, Wong having emigrated from Hong Kong goes through the motions of her existence. Much to her surprise, Kuang re-enters her life. Now part of the organized resistance, he enlists her to again become Mrs. Mak in a revival of the plot to kill Yee, who as head of the collaborationist secret service has become even more a key part of the puppet government. As Wong reprises her earlier role, and is drawn ever closer to her dangerous prey, she finds her very identity being pushed to the limit…

Directed by Ang Lee | Starring : Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Wei Tang, Joan Chen, Leehom Wang, Chung-Hua Tou | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Calgary Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, Edmonton Film Festival, London Film Festival, Vienna Film Festival, Sao Paulo Film Festival, Valladolid Film Festival, Oslo Film Festival, Göteborg Film Festival

向日葵 | Sunflower

Sunflower

The tumultuous relationship between a father returning home after years in a labor camp and the nine-year-old son who doesn’t quite know what to make of this new man in his life lies at the heart of director Zhang Yang’s heartfelt drama addressing the nature of change and the importance of family in Chinese culture. Chairman Mao has died and the Gang of Four have fallen, leaving former painter Gengnian to return home to his wife, Xiuqing, and the pair’s nine-year-old son Xiangyang. His hands permanently damaged by the ravages of hard labor, Gengnian cannot return to painting, though his young son has shown an abundance of artistic promise. Troubled by the sudden presence of a father he has never known and rebelling against the path laid before him, Xiangyang ignites a firecracker in his hand in hopes that it may derail his artistic career. In the years that follow, Xiangyang’s reputation as a talented artist grows while his relationship with his father remains forever troubled.

Directed by Yang Zhang | Starring : Joan Chen, Haiying Sun, Zhang Fan, Zifeng Liu, Jing Liang | Presented at Toronto Film Festival, San Sebastian Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Bangkok Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival

茉莉花开 | Jasmine Women

Jasmine Women

Jasmine Women is adapted from the novel Women’s Life by the famous writer Su Tong, whose literary works have been turned into many films, among them Zhang Yimou’s Raise the Red Lantern. Jasmine Women follows a family whose female members from three different generations all experience frustration in marriage, as if the family is cursed. In the 1930s, Mo, brought up by her single mother, develops a romance with the studio manager and is dumped after she gets pregnant. She blames her daughter Li for all her miseries. In the 1960s, Li can no longer put up with her mother Mo and marries a construction worker. Being impotent, Li adopts a child from the orphan named Hua. In the 1980s, Li suspects that her husband has an incestuous affair with Hua. Her husband commits suicide and Li becomes schizophrenic. Hua’s marriage is no better than her mother’s or grandmother’s – her husband finds a mistress and she decides to divorce him although she has already conceived his child…

Directed by Yong Hou | Starring : Ziyi Zhang, Joan Chen, Wen Jiang, Ye Liu, Yi Lu | Presented at Shanghai Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival, Iceland Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival

天浴 | Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl

Xiu Xiu

Liyan and Yuwen live in post-war torpor, childless but with Liyan’s school-aged sister. He coughs, imagining he has tuberculosis; Yuwen embroiders; they sleep in separate rooms. A surprise visit from Liyan’s boyhood friend Zhang, a big city physician, wakes up the household. To Zhang’s amazement, he discovers his friend’s wife is his own youthful sweetheart. Possibilities abound: an affair, an arranged marriage of Zhang and Little Sister, now 16, or simply ending ennui and embracing vitality.

Directed by Joan Chen | Starring : Xiaolu Li, Lopsang, Zheng Qian, Jie Gao, Yue Lü | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Paris Film Festival