Sunday, July 01, 2007

Getting Home (2007)

The New York Asian Film Festival is in full swing, and I've seen three solid entries so far: Park Chan-wook's sweetly demented love story, I'm a Cyborg, but That's Ok (miles better than Oldboy), Patrick Tam's lush family breakdown epic, After This our Exile (with rich photography from Mark Lee Ping-Bin), and Zhang Yang's sentimental-slapstick corpse comedy Getting Home.

Of course the last is my favorite. The latest from genial humanist Zhang Yang (Shower (1999), Quitting (2001)), it finds construction worker Zhao lugging his dead friend across China in order to fulfill the promise that he would be buried with his family. Structured around a series of vignettes about the people he meets on the way, the film is immensely generous to its characters and deeply in love with the Chinese countryside. It's a countryside filled with folks uprooted and confused by the rapid industrialization of the country. He meets an elderly man who pays villagers to enact his fake funeral, a woman scarred by the factory boiler, and a mom abandoned by her striving student son. It could almost be called a comic version of Jia Zhangke's Still Life, which uses an art-film aesthetic to chart similar characters. Both contain people drawn to the Three Gorges Dam looking for their family, only to discover their dispersal through the flooding of towns. Rural life is disappearing, and while Jia uses precisely composed long-takes to mark it, Zhang stuffs a corpse into a tire. Different modes, similar preoccupations. Both should be seen - but right now Getting Home has no distributor, foreign comedies rarely seeing the light of day over here.


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