At the beginning of each month, CFI posts a comprehensive list of Chinese film screenings in NYC and LA. To help you better understand China through cinema, we include films that are made by Chinese filmmakers, set in China, or tell Chinese stories. Here is what to see in March.
An Elephant Sitting Still 大象席地而坐 (Hu Bo, 234 min, 2018)
Opens 03/08 at Film Society at Lincoln Center (NY)
Opens 03/22 at Laemmle Glendale (CA)
The protagonist of this modern reworking of the tale of Jason and the Argonauts is teenage Wei Bu, who critically injures a school bully by accident. Over a single, eventful day, he crosses paths with a classmate, an elderly neighbor, and the bully’s older brother, all of them bearing their own individual burdens, and all drawn as if by gravity to the city of Manzhouli, where a mythical elephant is said to sit, indifferent to a cruel world. Full of moody close-ups and virtuosic tracking shots, An Elephant Sitting Still is nothing short of a masterpiece. A New Directors/New Films 2018 selection. A KimStim release with support from the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation and the China Institute.
- Introduction and Q&A with actor Zhang Yu at the 6:30pm screening on March 8. Prior to the screening, all ticket holders are invited to a reception in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (FilmLinc). Zhang Yu will return for pre-screening discussions at the 7:30pm screening on March 9 and the 6:30pm screening on March 10.
The Crossing 过春天 (BAI Xue, 99 min, 2018)
Opens 03/15 at AMC
Bai Xue’s debut film is set in the transit zone dividing the two metropolises: Hong Kong and Shenzhen. With the promises of modern life before her and smuggled goods in her backpack, 16-year-old Peipei takes the risky step into independence.
More than Blue 比悲伤更悲伤的事 (Gavin Lin, 106 min, 2018)
Opens 03/15 at AMC
When a musician finds out he is dying, he makes it his remaining life as a mission to find a new man for the girl he loves. But those around him who are unaware of his diagnosis try to push them together, dwindling the time he has to finish his search.
Ash Is Purest White 江湖儿女 (Jia Zhangke, 141 min, 2018)
Opens 03/22 at AMC
Set over a 17-year period beginning in 2001, this epic romantic tragedy from Jia Zhangke (Still Life, A Touch of Sin) unfolds with unparalleled precision and disarming pathos. A tragicomedy in the fullest sense, Ash Is Purest White is at once his funniest and saddest film, portraying the passage of time through narrative ellipses and, like his Mountains May Depart (NYFF53), a three-part structure. An NYFF56 selection. A Cohen Media Group release. Watch Jia Zhangke discuss the film at a special sneak preview here.
Still in theatre:
The Wandering Earth 流浪地球 (Frant Gwo, 125 min, 2019)
Based on a short story by Liu Cixin. In the future, Earth’s survival is threatened, so large thruster engines are built to propel the planet through the solar system toward another sun-like star. Read the director interview here.
FILM SERIES & SPECIAL SCREENINGS
Brotherhood of Blades II 绣春刀2（Lu Yang, 120min, 2017）
With Chang Chen, Yang Mi, Zhang Yi. During China’s Ming Dynasty, an imperial guardsman named Shen Lian (Chang Chen) searches for the truth behind a conspiracy that framed him and his partners. The proof of his innocence lies with a wanted woman named Bei Zhai (Yang Mi)—but will she reveal what she knows? In this intense prequel to Lu Yang’s Brotherhood of Blades, the only thing Shen Lian can truly trust is his sword. Part of Fist and Sword (2019)
Ringo Lam (林嶺東), who died last December at age 63, was one of the brightest burning talents of the Golden Age of Hong Kong popular cinema. His films remain as fierce as ever—and here’s three of the finest, never to burn out or fade away.
Full Contact 侠盗高飞 (96min, 1992)
03/02 & 03/08
The fire this time is a cleansing one: Chow Yun-fat’s cavalier criminal is nearly killed in an explosion that leaves an innocent girl disfigured, and he emerges from the flames a new man, setting out to right wrongs and exact purgative vengeance on those who double-crossed him, including former friend Anthony Wong and his crime lord cousin, Simon Yam. A beautiful bullet ballet that sends the camera sailing along with fired rounds, and perhaps the most ruthless movie that Lam ever made, not easing up until the final, unforgettable exhortation, “Go masturbate in Hell!”
City on Fire 龙虎风云 (101min, 1987)
03/03 & 03/10
Chow Yun-fat and Danny Lee lead a team of strong-arm thieves specializing in jewelry store jobs, tied together by friendship and the bandit’s code of honor. There’s only one hitch: Chow is an undercover cop, playing the part of a hood for so long that only his superior knows his real identity. A landmark in Hong Kong action cinema providing a plum part to hasten Chow’s rise to celebrity, the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, and a potent portrait of a city choking on its own corruption, it’s brisk, brooding, bloody, and brilliant moviemaking—run-and-gun cinema at its finest.
Prison on Fire 监狱风云 (98 min, 1987)
03/03 & 03/09
Meek white-collar worker Tony Leung Ka-fai looks like defenseless fresh meat when he goes into prison on a manslaughter charge, but he survives thanks to the protection of longtime inmate Chow Yun-fat. Their friendship becomes a bastion of finer feelings in the brutal lockup, a microcosm of mercenary Hong Kong society ruled by triad gangs and crooked guards, the worst of them Roy Cheung’s skull-cracking sadist, whose final confrontation with Chow is one of the most searing expressions of revolutionary rage in all of HK cinema.
Under the Heel (Wang Yuanlong, 60 min, 1929)
This film will be introduced by Li DaoXin, Professor, School of the Arts, Peking University. Live musical ccompaniment by Makia Matsumura.
As part of “Legacies of Leftism in Film and Media Theory: East Asia and Beyond” (February 28-March 2, 2019)
Seating is limited and first come, first served. Advance registration does not guarantee entry; early arrival is strongly suggested. Check-in begins one hour prior to event start time.
Police Story (Jackie Chan, 102 min, 1985)
Opens 03/08. New restoration from Janus Films.
The jaw-dropping set pieces fly fast and furious in Jackie Chan’s breathtakingly inventive martial-arts comedy, a smash hit that made him a worldwide icon of daredevil action spectacle. Police Story set a new standard for rock-’em-sock-’em mayhem that would influence a generation of filmmakers from Hong Kong to Hollywood. Watch the restoration trailer here.
Gong Li was a student at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing in 1985 when she met Zhang Yimou, a young cinematographer. Zhang chose her for the lead role in Red Sorghum (1988), his first film as a director. The movie was met with critical acclaim, and over the next decade, the pair worked together on six additional films, which vaulted Zhang Yimou to the forefront of China’s fifth generation of directors. Gong Li became a national and international sensation. Gong received wide acclaim for her performance in the Oscar-nominated Raise the Red Lantern (1991), which put her firmly in the international spotlight and established her reputation, according to Asiaweek, as “one of the world’s most glamorous movie stars and an elegant throwback to Hollywood’s golden era.” Today, Gong has starred in over 30 films by many of China’s most prominent directors and has been credited with helping to bring Chinese cinema to prominence in Europe and the United States. In this mini-series, we will examine the actress’s work through two of her greatest performances, in the films The Story of Qiu Ju, and Zhou Yu’s Train.
The Story of Qiu Ju 秋菊打官司 (1992)
This film recounts the story of a peasant woman, Qiu Ju (Gong Li), fighting her way through rural China to seek justice for her paralyzed husband (Peiqi Liu) who was injured by the head of their village. Despite her pregnancy, Qiu Ju travels to a nearby town and later to a city to get justice served. Over the course of this journey, Qiu Ju experiences endless hardships caused by the villagers’ ignorance and the bureaucracy of the legal system. Qiu Ju persists with tenacity and determination, but later finds herself caught up in the clash of values between China’s legal system and traditional rural culture. Through Qiu Ju’s story, the film broaches the subject of legal reform in the 1990s.
Zhou Yu’s Train 周渔的火车 (2002)
A poetic and elegant piece, Zhou Yu’s Train tells a poignant love story between a woman and two men. Ceramics artist Zhou Yu (Gong Li) commutes regularly by train to see her lover Chen Qing (Tony Ka Fai Leung), a poet who lives in a town several hundred kilometers away. During multiple train trips between the two places, Zhou Yu meets a veterinary surgeon called Zhang Qiang (Honglei Sun) who ignites a different kind of passion in her. Made in the years when Gong Li had stopped collaborating with Zhang Yimou, this artistic film from director Sun Zhou presents a uniquely charming Gong Li that isn’t seen in her other movies. Set in the early 21st century, this intimate and personal film also captures the scenery of rural and urban China in the 2000s.
Celebrating its 48th edition in 2019, the New Directors/New Films festival introduces New York audiences to the work of emerging filmmakers from around the world. From March 27 – April 7 at the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating a group of filmmakers who represent the present and anticipate the future of cinema: daring artists whose work pushes the envelope and is never what you’d expect.
Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday, March 8 at noon. MoMA and Film Society members receive an early access purchasing period starting on Monday, March 4 at noon.
Present.Perfect. 完美现在时 (Shengze ZHU,124 min, 2019)
03/30 & 03/31
Shengze Zhu’s third feature shines a light on the curious world of live streaming, a singularly contemporary form of human connection and commerce wherein “anchors” document their lives and interact with a virtual audience. Cobbled together from 800 hours of live-streaming footage, Present.Perfect. advances a fascinating documentary portrait of Chinese society by focusing on the most marginalized of these anchors: a chain-smoking burn victim, an uncoordinated street dancer, a man with growth-hormone deficiency, a cattle farm worker, and many others. What emerges is an indelible vision of the world we live in today, when the boundaries between the real and the virtual have never been more porous. U.S. Premiere
Suburban Birds 郊区的鸟 (QIU Sheng, 118 min, 2018)
03/31 & 04/02
Qiu Sheng’s feature debut is an entrancing, enigmatic work in which multiple plotlines run tantalizingly in parallel before intersecting in surprising ways. In one, a team of surveyors tries to figure out why a suburban landscape seems to be subsiding before construction on a new transit begins, sparking politically charged tensions among the group. Meanwhile, a gang of children loiter and set out on youthful adventures, until one of them disappears… Adopting a subtly radical approach to exploring memory (and forgetting) and rich with visual ideas, Suburban Birds promises a major new voice in Chinese cinema. A Cinema Guild release. North American Premiere.