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China Across Time: A Jia Zhangke Double Bill

MUBI Special

The most acclaimed of China’s Sixth Generation of directors, Jia Zhangke’s body of work resonates so vividly with audiences around the world due in no small part to his remarkable ability to provide a snapshot of the tensions facing his nation as it has dramatically evolved into the current era. A number of his films directly explore the nature of social, cultural, and economic shifts and the repercussions—both human and environmental—that have resulted from China’s seismic national growth. This double feature is devoted to two different but equally clever explorations by Jia of dramatic changes to his homeland, as well as to his own home province of Shanxi. The wry short film The Hedonists brilliantly collapses historical China with the country of today, when its characters’ job search lands them at a restored medieval city in Fenyang. The grand melodrama of Mountains May Depart charts its heroine’s journey through several decades, each reflecting (and, in the future segment, projecting) the pressures and desires of the time.

The Hedonists

Jia Zhangke China, 2016

Set in his hometown of Fenyang, Jia Zhangke’s eccentric hybrid short stars the director’s veteran actors playing fictional versions of themselves. A frenzied job search leads to a comic exploration of the bizarre, novel relationship between China’s cultural traditions and free-reign capitalism.

Mountains May Depart

Jia Zhangke China, 2015

This week we’re presenting a double bill devoted to the history-spanning films of Sixth Generation auteur Jia Zhangke. Mountains May Depart’s story, set in the past, present, and future, makes for a rivetingly modern Chinese melodrama, guided by the star-like presence of actress Zhao Tao.

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