Tuesday, April 08, 2008

SFIFF51—Still Life (Sanxia haoren) In 75 "Words" Or Less

What is that strange structure in Jia Zheng-ke's Still Life (2006)? I won't tell. Besides, I don't have enough word count to get into it. Despite the fact that Still Life has been on the circuit for nearly two years, it's tethered to a 75 words or less hold review for SFIFF51 press; the rationale being that it hasn't opened theatrically in San Francisco yet.


Ever respectful of such tethers, I offer my write-up on Still Life in 75 "words" or less:

An, Tony
Anderson, Jason
Bradshaw, Peter
Braun, Liz
Brussat, Frederic & Maryann
Cabin, Chris
Campbell, Zach
Croce, Fernando
Daniel, Rob
Dargis, Manohla
Dawson, Thomas
Denby, David
Elley, Derek
Erickson, Steve
Fox, Ken
Goldsmith, Leo
Hoberman, J.
Hoover, Travis McKenzie
Kasman, Daniel
Kaufman, Anthony
Koresky, Michael
Kraicer, Shelly
Lim, Dennis
Nelson, Dustin
O'Hehir, Andrew
Parks, J. Robert
Peary, Gerald
Rapold, Nicolas
Rayns, Tony
Riviera, Matt
Rizov, Vadim
Rosenbaum, Jonathan
Sallitt, Dan
Shambu, Girish
Strong, Benjamin
Tsai, Martin

Phew! I'd best stop before I go over the limit. As a pertinent aside, however, Joel Shepard—who wrote the capsule for the SFIFF51 program—has advised that he's bringing Jia Zheng-ke's related documentary Dong (2006), as well as his most recent film Wuyong (Useless, 2007) to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts June 26-29, 2008. Finally, San Franciscans will be caught up!


Unknown said...

Dear Michael: I'm a big fan of The Evening Class. I would like to drop you a note, but I can't find your e-mail. Do you mind sending it to me? I'm at cyentan@gmail.com. Keep up the good work! - Yen

HarryTuttle said...

Thanks for collecting all these reviews, I'll use them for the Jia profile at Unspoken Cinema.
By the way if you're interested in making one of the remaining profiles, you're welcome. I know you're good at synthesising a press review.

Matt Riviera said...

Everyone in San Francisco: go see Still Life, it's unlike anything you've ever seen before. In fact, make a point of going to see every film which can be summarized or reviewed in 75 words or less!

Anonymous said...


In the Internet Age, these press 'holds' are pointless, if they ever had a point.

This reminds me of something I learned while in Australia. While in Canberra, the capital city, I was watching an UNDERBELLY marathon while waiting for a friend to pick me up to go out for drinks. UNDERBELLY is a drama based on a real life Melbourne Underworld case that is presently being addressed in the court system of the State of Victoria (which contains Melbourne). The judges there have disallowed UNDERBELLY from being shown anywhere in Victoria.

But when I got to Melbourne, friends and acquaintances were all talking about UNDERBELLY. They'd seen it from the assistance of their 'suppliers', their friends or family in New South Wales, Queensland, or the other States.

So, ironically, this 'hold' on the screening of a drama about modern day pirates has helped fuel piracy of the very program they are trying to suppress.

The internet age just won't allow for these 'holds.' And, really, what could these 'holds' possibly positively provide? Those of us who are anxious to see films like STILL LIFE are anxious to have info on it. We will still go see STILL LIFE even after reading these reviews you've helpfully linked up here, Michael. Perhaps 'holds' makes sense for a film like IRON MAN, but, come on, think of your niche, Mr and Mrs Distributor.

Michael Guillen said...

Harry, thanks for stopping by to comment and for your invitation. Once SFIFF51 is over, I'll give that some good thought.

Matt, I'm honored by your visit. Of course, you've tantalized me with who was the sleeping juror at the Adelaide Film Fest; but, I'm aware that it's probably best to let sleeping jurors lie. In your own review of this remarkable film, I liked your comment about how--though the two stories of Han Sanming and Shen Hong fail to intersect--"they both portray ordinary people lost in a landscape they no longer recognize, their loved ones victims of a cause they no longer understand"; and, further, how you synopsize your reaction with: "Both personal and political, the film offers an insightful glimpse of the effect of mass industrialization on the individual. Still Life is a strangely affecting love letter to a gigantic, complex country full of contradictions and a brutal portrayal of society undergoing accelerated transformations."

Adam, your points on the morping landscape of internet film coverage are well-taken. To be absolutely fair to the SFFS publicity team, they appreciated how I played this out. As you say, with new releases catering to a first weekend audience, hold reviews make absolute sense and I respect the policy (usually by just not writing about those films). When I do elect to write a short capsule, it's often as a writing challenge to myself.

Above all, like Matt, I just want everyone to see this truly evocative piece of work and--if I bent the rules a little--it was to underscore the glowing voluminous praise this film has already received.

Ryland Walker Knight said...

This is definitely at the top of my SFIFF51 list, along with _In The City of Sylvia_. I think it's playing at the PFA, too...

Paul Martin said...

Adam, Still Life screened in Melbourne at MIFF last year. It was one of my favourites. I liked the way the digital medium was exploited, achieving an aesthetic unique to digital photography.