Jia Zhangke, a Guy from Fenyang [2014)

I bet you thought I stopped writing about film, right?

ūüôā

Me too.

Sometimes.

I think…

“Am I still a film critic?”

With all this Trump this and Trump that.

With these tableaux.

This lazy poetry.

But I am back with an actual film.

And it is a masterpiece.

But I don’t know what to call it!!!

It’s a Chinese film.

Sort of.

But not really.

Because it’s by a Brazilian film director.

But not just any Brazilian film director.

Someday I will get around to reviewing one of the best exemplars of¬†na√Įvet√© ever made.

Yes, one of the best FILMS ever made.

Central do Brasil.

Central Station.

A formative episode in my filmic life.

But back to this Chinese film directed by a Brazilian.

I didn’t even get to his name yet ūüôā

Walter Salles!

Yes…two masterpieces are enough to make an auteur!!

But we can’t use the Chinese title here.

For the film.

Under consideration.

Because that would be disingenuous (and we will get to Trump).

[Or we will try.]

{so much…stuff…in the world}

Let’s paint the picture…

Three Gorges…no.

We must wait.

Central Station was a fiction film.

A beautiful masterpiece which stretches even up into the sert√£o.

But¬†Jia Zhangke, a Guy from Fenyang¬†is a documentary…about a guy from Fenyang…named Jia Zhangke.

Messrs. Baggini and Fosl (Julian and Peter) would call that a “spectacularly uninformative sentence”.

And Kant, the less-colorful–less-candid “analytic proposition”.

But we hit an impasse.

The film I am reviewing is so little-known (apparently) that it doesn’t have a Wikipedia page.

Worse, it has a strange, butchered title on iMDB.

There it is called Jia Zhang-ke by Walter Salles.

Hmmm…

I must admit:  it appears some people in marketing over at Kino Lorber are dicking around.

But we press on…

Just who the fuck is Jia Zhangke?  And why should you care about him?

Well, first: ¬†he’s a film director.

And second: ¬†he’s as good as Jean-Luc Godard.

Did I just say that???

Yes.

I just put someone on an equal level with my favorite director of all time.

What’s more, a Chinese guy you’ve probably never heard of.

Of whom.

And what about this Fenyang business?

Well, let’s get out our maps.

First, we must find Shaanxi Province.

Northern China.

The capital is Xi’an.

But we must get to the more obscure.

Fenyang.

Home of our subject auteur:  Jia Zhangke.

So we don’t exactly know the title…here to there…from this platform to the next.

But we will say this.

If you are in the U.S., this film is currently streaming on Netflix under the title Jia Zhangke, a Guy from Fenyang.

Or something like that.

This is the confusion of a lack of standardization.

Where’s ISO when you need them…or Zamenhof!

Ok…so why should you watch a 105 minute documentary about a filmmaker of whom you have likely never heard?

Because Walter Salles compels you.

He says, “Watch my story… ¬†Pay attention to this little self-deprecating Chinese man. ¬†He’s a cinematic genius.”

Wouldn’t it be great if all artisans and artists helped each other out in such a way?

A filmmaker, age 57, decides to make a film about another filmmaker, age 46.

Actually, that is quite an honor.

That an older filmmaker would help in the career of the younger one.

So we heartily praise Salles for his mise-en-scène as well as his morals.

But then we hit another impasse.

Because words cannot express the brilliance of Jia Zhangke’s grasp on cinematic language.

And so, why should you watch this film?  I ask again.

Because it gives you an introduction (not dumbed down in any way) to the works of a contemporary film artist who is leading the cinematic medium into this new century.

Likewise, it gives you an introduction to Chinese film at the same time.

These aren’t kung fu flicks (for the most part).

These are art films.

Similar to Breathless

Born of the French New Wave.

But also born of Raj Kapoor.

Indeed, as a young boy…Jia Zhangke remembered an early film which extolled thieves. ¬†And it was this Indian film shown in China. ¬†And the Chinese kids remembered the melismatic melodies for decades…to rip off a shred and a few threads of a melody which bound them as enfants terribles.

Jia Zhangke, a Guy from Fenyang is a bit like Cinema Paradiso.

The big director returns home.

And there’s a sadness.

Maybe you can see your childhood home.

And hit the wall one more time.

You can imagine the family bed and the father’s desk was there.

And the books on shelves along here.

So many books.

That there is a sadness of being from Fenyang.

I feel it being from San Antonio.

And Jia Zhangke, all throughout this film, ideates thoughts which have now and then wisped in and out of my dreams.

Jia is very calm.  Thoughtful.  Serene.

A true artist.

And as he talks about the process of creation, I find him to be an exceptionally dedicated artist.

We hear about Xiao Wu (1997).

Pickpocket.  Starring Wang Hongwei.

I mean, this bloke…Wang… ¬†His clothes hang on him in almost a magical way.

He’s a good-for-nothing bum in the Chaplin mold, but still puffing away like Belmondo in¬†Breathless.

But Jia was right.

It’s the gait.

The way Wang Hongwei walks.

Body language.

Brilliant!

And the shots we see of Platform are really moving.

It’s like being from a place like Kiruna, Sweden.

Gotta get there by train.

Up past the Arctic Circle.

And the kids…they don’t have a lot of entertainment.

Maybe even the sight of a train.

But in China…………….far more vast.

These remote places.

Like the Three Gorges area where Jia made Dong and also Still Life.

But the joke’s on me.

Because the whole world knows Jia Zhangke.

The whole world of cinema.

And me, with my insular approach, not so much.

Because Jia won the Palme d’Or in both…wait.

We have the wrong envelope.

Ok…so maybe he’s not that well know.

His films have been screened in competition at Cannes, but no hardware yet.

With the exception of his Golden Lion from Venice.

But none of that matters.

What matters is that he’s making great films.

What matters is that he has the potential to best us all.

This was a very moving film for me.

Because it speaks to the obstacles of life.

Of the unhappiness.

Of the solitude which must be for creations to ferment properly.

To mix metaphors, we need the darkness in which to screen our masterpieces of light.

We cannot screen them in a glass house…at 2:30 p.m.

Finally, this film will give you invaluable insights into the recent history and current state of China.

All the people on Weibo (like Twitter).

The market system which has been kicking ass since the 1990s.

And crucial periods such as 1976-1989.

The restructuring period right after the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

WE NOW JOIN PAULY DEATHWISH NEWS NETWORK…IN PROGRESS: “…

Xi Jinping.  His father purged in 1963.  His father jailed in 1968.  Xi was sent without his father to work in Shaanxi Province in 1969.  [The remote province from which film director Jia Zhangke hails.]

This was a time of immense violence in China.  Being purged.  Being jailed.  Being sent to the countryside to work and be re-educated.  All of this was suffused with violence.

So when President Xi got the message from President Trump himself that the U.S. had just launched 60 Tomahawk missiles into Syria minutes earlier, President Xi was met with the shock of surrealism…a perfect steak…beautiful ladies…the glitz and glamour of Mar-a-Lago…and the throat punch of an actual tiger. ¬†No paper.

“Get North Korea in line, and fast!” ¬†Would have been the message.

So that, in these times, to truly appreciate that which is unfolding around us, we need directors like Jia Zhangke.

These are our new philosophers.  Our new poets.

Thinking about social media.

Fooling around with it.

Inventing new artistic forms.

And finding new types of loneliness.

And desperation.

Jia came from a very poor area.

He loved his family very much.

The Chinese don’t like violence.

We Americans don’t like violence.

See this film.

Then get back to me on¬†Dereliction of Duty¬†ūüôā

-PD

Trump Press Conference, February 16 [2017)

The Trump Presidency officially has a new high-water mark.

And it came today.

The epic excoriation of Western media (and, in particular, the woeful American branch of that diseased tree).

I have largely refrained from treating political events for the past months.

This was for a variety of reasons.

But today’s Trump victory was a feature-length (*) reminder of why we elected this guy.

I didn’t see it live, but I watched the interview in its entirety later in the day.

With the utmost irony, I will be using and referring to the “official transcript” which has just recently been posted by¬†The New York Times.

It’s only befitting that they continue to precipitate their own downfall.

Keep in mind that the NYT is getting their transcript from Federal News Service:  a subsidiary of The Economist Group.

As in The Economist.

As in, that spineless, globalist rag which completely forgoes bylines (à la Chatham House rules).

As in, the opposition.

Keeping that in mind, let’s see exactly what the hero of the free world had to say today.

First, President Trump bemoaned the treatment of his cabinet selections.

Indeed, the Democratic Party in the United States has become the embarrassment they wish to project upon Donald Trump.

The Democratic Party has, it seems, absolutely no cogent strategy whatsoever  at this point.

And so, indeed, the only real political chaos is within that camp.

To clarify…it’s not just a BAD strategy which the Democrats have adopted in an effort to keep their ragtag band of poseurs on political life-support, but rather A COMPLETE LACK OF STRATEGY which characterizes the sum of their pathetic tactics.

Yes, Mr. Trump: ¬†“the people get it”.

Indeed.

We rednecks.  We of middle-America.

Many colors and creeds.

Yes, we fucking get it.

You are the man!

As a student of (and holder of an advanced degree in) business, I bloody well understand why the world of commerce is welcoming Trump.

It’s those trite words which are pounded into every MBA’s head.

Value creation.

Or.

Value.

Yeah…

There’s no Bernie-Sanders-ing our way out of the current quagmire.

AND…

Only a leader with tremendous cojones could even have a shot at successfully pulling off the rebuilding of America.

Because we have squandered our position in the world.

At the expense of truth, we have fallen down a muddy chute.

And the free-fall (while not apparent to all) has been going on for some time.

So we are, indeed, putting a great deal of faith in Mr. Trump to right the ship.

Really, we’re like the goddamned Titanic over here.

But business has to work.

There’s no willy-nilly socialism which is going to patch up our death-wound which is bleeding money.

No sir.

There’s no value creation in that.

Try it out.

War-game it.

It doesn’t work.

Which isn’t to say that rapacious monopoly capitalism is the answer.

But we are a capitalist country.

And China’s ascent has not been due to some new interpretation of Marx.

Fuck no!

President Trump:

“I‚Äôm making this presentation directly to the American people, with the media present, which is an honor to have you. This morning, because many of our nation‚Äôs reporters and folks will not tell you the truth, and will not treat the wonderful people of our country with the respect that they deserve.”

A-fucking-men!

Yes, dear friends…the election of Donald Trump was a referendum AGAINST THE CORPORATE MASS MEDIA.

[first and foremost]

And this same media is still living in denial.

Their allies are reprobates.

And they reach out their desperate tentacles for shadier and shadier sustenance.

And so, though it be hard to fathom, the mass media in the U.S. is actually GETTING WORSE.

That’s because it is dying.

Death throes.

Donald Trump is no idiot.

His assessment of The New York Times as being a terminally-failing (publically-traded) company is business analysis.

And it’s unequivocal.

But you know what?

The media hated Trump all along.

The old media.

And he didn’t, as it turned out, need to curry favor with them after all.

He spoke to the crowd.

He went around.

He outflanked the biggest, most puffed-up hegemony in the world.

So we’re giving Israel a chance.

We’re giving Trump a chance.

I’m not a Republican.

I’m just a schmuck who voted for Trump.

You can make the call as to whether I’m erudite enough to have such a privilege.

But Donald Trump has taught me to have pride in my country.

To have pride in the United States of America.

To be grateful for those who serve in the military.

To be grateful for those who serve as police officers.

That’s the positivity I get from Donald Trump.

It’s probably the Norman Vincent Peale in him.

But I also see a very strong leader.

A person who doesn’t take any shit from anyone.

Had Bernie Sanders such a spine, the protests would have gone for broke at the Democratic National Convention.

But too bad.

Sorry, people.

You had your chance to dethrone your greatest foe.

And she was in your own camp.

You know, I actually feel sorry for the Democratic Party…

No political party should have ever been represented by such a lousy candidate as Hillary Clinton.

But that was the “now-or-never” moment.

It passed.

And we who embraced the market system which rewards hard work…we won.

[and it doesn’t take a genius to understand why]

Complaining after the fact doesn’t cut it.

Get out and vote.

Campaign.

Blood, sweat, and tears.

If you lose, you lose.

But if you half-ass it, probability is not in your favor.

We Trump supporters took immense heat.

Shellacking.

We’re “racist”. ¬†“Bigots”.

Blah blah frickety blah.

But it doesn’t matter what you pathetic losers think.

Because, believe it or not, we actually want prosperity for you too.

Because maybe someday you’ll thank us that we still have a country left.

But I’ll just leave you with one zinger which sums up our entire¬†Zeitgeist.

You wanna know Donald Trump’s take on the media…in one pithy jab?

“The press ‚ÄĒ the public doesn‚Äôt believe you people anymore.”

That’s it.

That carried the day.

The anti-Trump media (which is at least 80% of the American airwaves and newsstands) needs to go back to their Sun Tzu, their Machiavelli, their Clausewitz, and their Jomini.

Because they’re losing this fucking war.

The decimation is more laughable than honorable.

Unlock your little brains, liberals.

Come out and play.

And leave the deck-chair-rearranging to Schumers.

“…lightweights…”

ūüôā

-PD