At the beginning of each month, CFI posts a comprehensive list of Chinese film screenings in NYC. 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 October.
New York Film Festival
Ash Is Purest White 江湖儿女 (Jia Zhangke 贾樟柯, 136 min, 2018)
10/1 at Alice Tully Hall, 10/10 Alice Tully Hall
Jia Zhangke’s extraordinary body of work has doubled as a record of 21st-century China and its warp-speed transformations. 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. Despite its jianghu—criminal underworld—setting, Ash is less a gangster movie than a melodrama, beginning by following Qiao and her mobster boyfriend Bin as they stake out their turf against rivals and upstarts in 2001 postindustrial Datong before expanding out into an epic narrative of how abstract forces shape individual lives. As the formidable, quick-witted Qiao, a never better Zhao Tao has fashioned a heroine for the ages. A Cohen Media Group release. U.S. Premiere, Q&A with Jia Zhangke on October 1
Long Day’s Journey Into Night 地球最后的夜晚 (Bi Gan 毕赣, 140 min, 2018)
10/2 at Walter Reade Theater, 10/4 Francesca Beale Theater
As proven by his knockout debut, Kaili Blues, Bi Gan is preoccupied with film’s potential to both materialize mental space and convey physical sensation. His cinematic ambitions are further crystallized, to say the least, in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, a noir-tinged film about a solitary man (Huang Jue 黄觉) haunted by loss and regret, told in two parts: the first an achronological mosaic, the second a nocturnal dream. Again centering around his native province of Guizhou in southwest China, the director has created a film like nothing you’ve seen before, especially in the second half’s hour-long, gravity-defying 3D sequence shot, which plunges its protagonist—and us—through a labyrinthine cityscape. A Kino Lorber release. Q&As with Bi Gan and Huang Jue on both dates. View the clip here.
A Family Tour 自由行 (Ying Liang 应亮, 107 min, 2018)
10/2 at Walter Reade Theater, 10/3 Francesca Beale Theater
Since his 2012 feature When Night Falls, a stinging critique of state power that the Chinese authorities attempted to suppress, the director Ying Liang has been forced to live in exile in Hong Kong. His return to feature filmmaking is a characteristically precise and powerful work, and an autobiographical one, inspired by his own precarious situation and based on a reunion with his in-laws. The film follows a Hong Kong–exiled director (Gong Zhe 宫哲) as she travels to a film festival in Taiwan with her husband and toddler, while her ailing mother (Nai An 耐安) vacations there separately with a tour group. To avoid attracting attention, the family shadows the tour’s sightseeing itinerary, visiting each other during photo stops and mealtimes. An empathetic snapshot of a mother-daughter relationship, this brave, poised film is also a deeply moving testament to the inseparability of the personal and the political.
Your Face 脸 (Tsai Ming-liang 蔡明亮, 76 min, 2018)
10/5 at Howard Gilman Theater, 10/7 at Francesca Beale Theater
Radically rethinking the tired talking-heads template, Tsai Ming-liang’s latest digital experiment turns the human face into a subject of dramatic intrigue. Comprised of a series of portrait shots of mostly anonymous individuals (Tsai devotees will no doubt recognize his long-time muse, Lee Kang-sheng 李康生), the film shrewdly deemphasizes language while reducing context to a bare minimum. In their place, the beauty and imperfections of each face take center stage. Accompanied by Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack of dynamically modulating drone frequencies, Tsai’s subjects variously speak, stare, and, at one point, sleep as the camera quietly registers the weight of personal history and accumulated experience writ beautifully across every last pore and crevasse.
Bushwick Film Festival
Lost in Apocalypse 末世人间道 (Sky Wang, China, 89 min, 2018)
10/12 at Syndicated
A thriller about a group of seemingly unrelated individuals fight their way out of a virus-infested hotel, only to find themselves at a worse place than before. View the trailer.
FILM SERIES & SPECIAL SCREENINGS
A series of recent films from China’s sixth and seventh generations of filmmakers. Free admission; registration recommended. All films in Chinese with English subtitles.
Ash 追·踪 (Li Xiaofeng李霄峰, 114min, 2018)
10/20 2 PM
Free screening (RSVP), Q&A with director Li Xiaofeng
Li Xiaofeng’s Ash tells the story of two unlikely pen pals—acquainted by chance through a used copy of Leo Tolstoy’s Resurrection—and their seemingly unrelated lives. Meanwhile, a young police detective pursues the truth behind two unsolved murders. Set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing China in the late 1990s, the film portrays hopeful youth in a booming city fighting for their dreams of love and success.
Have A Nice Day 大世界 (Liu Jian刘健, 77min, 2018)
10/20 5 PM
Free screening (RSVP), Q&A with director Liu Jian
Liu Jian is known for his painstakingly stylized animations, and he brings his signature dark comedy to his second feature-length animated film, Have a Nice Day. In a small city in southern China, the protagonist Xiao Zhang robs his boss at knife point in a desperate effort to salvage his relationship, by paying for his girlfriend’s plastic surgery. A series of intersecting misadventures ensue, all within a single day. Liu’s simply drawn yet emotionally complex characters and his detailed, gloomy background rich in social commentary, construct a vision of contemporary China complete with its worldly woes beyond the glamorous facade of coastal cities.
Girls Always Happy 柔情史 (Yang Mingming 杨明明, 117 min, 2018)
10/21 4 PM
Free screening (RSVP), Q&A with director Yang Mingming
Xiao Wu’s dreams of independent living in Beijing is disrupted when her mother decides to move in with her and imposes her way of life in the house. Co-dependency and dysfunctionality reach new heights as the film explores unfamiliar forms of familial love. Yang Mingming, one of China’s up-and-coming young female directors, dissects traditional family values by zooming in on the fragile connection between a single mother and her only daughter in Girls Always Happy. The film was nominated for the “GWFF Best First Feature Award” at the 68th Berlinale. This is part of China Art x Film Series, co-presented with China Onscreen Biennial, Creative China Festival, and Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation. View trailer.
Girls Always Happy is also screening on October 15th at REDCAT in Los Angeles.
Anthology Film Archives
10/9 – 10/21
Introduced by Wood Lin, the curator and programming director of Taiwan International Documentary Festival 台湾国际纪录片影展
Taiwan in the 1960s was a nation marked by a repressive political climate, a heavily restricted flow of information, and a mainstream film culture that was dominated by Taiyupian (Taiwanese-language cinema) and what came to be known as “healthy realist” melodramas. Nevertheless, young Taiwanese intellectuals, who had become aware of Western avant-garde movements through writings and translations, were eager to align themselves with the innovations of their counterparts in the West. This year’s edition of the Taiwan International Documentary Festival featured a special series showcasing films from the 1960s by some of the most daring and creative artists in Taiwan.
A Chinese Odyssey Part Two – Cinderella 大话西游之大圣娶亲 (Jeffrey Lau 刘镇伟, 98 min, 1995)
10/08 7:00 PM
Fantasy/Action. After using the Pandora’s Box, Joker finds himself stuck centuries in the past, where he encounters his old master and an array of villains.
Farewell My Concubine 霸王别姬(Chen Kaige 陈凯歌, 171 min, 1993)
10/09 7:00 PM
Melodrama. In 1924, young Cheng Dieyi (Leslie Cheung) begins training at the Beijing Opera House at the same time as Duan Xiaolou (Fengyi Zhang). Cheng specializes in playing female parts, often against Duan’s commanding male leads. While pretending to be in love with Duan onstage, Cheng begins to develop actual romantic feelings for his co-star, which are not reciprocated. Over the next 50 years, the two men maintain a complicated friendship as China undergoes turbulent changes. Won Palm d’Or.
Infernal Affairs 无间道 (Wai-Keung Lau 刘伟强, Alan Mak 麦兆辉, 101 min, 2002)
10/14 3:00 PM
Hong Kong Crime/Drama/Mystery. A story between a mole in the police department and an undercover cop. Their objectives are the same: to find out who is the mole, and who is the cop. The film stars Andy Lau, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, and Anthony Chau-Sang Wong.
The Way We Are 天水围的日与夜 (Ann Hui 许鞍华, 90 min, 2008)
10/20 3:00 PM
Drama. It tells the story of a hardworking, widowed, single mother (Mrs. Cheung) and her teenage son (Ka-on) living in the troubled housing estate of Tinshuiwai, a suburb regularly featured in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Lust, Caution 色，戒 (Ang LEE 李安, 157 min, 2007)
10/27 5:00 PM
Drama/History/Romance. During World War II era, a young woman, Wang Jiazhi, gets swept up in a dangerous game of emotional intrigue with a powerful political figure, Mr. Yee. Won Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival.
AMC Empire 25
Golden Job 黄金兄弟 (Chin Ka Lok, 100 min, 2018)
A group of former mercenaries reunite to plan an epic heist: boosting a truck full of medicine held by a foreign intelligence agency to supply a refugee camp in need. But when they find the truck is actually filled with stolen gold, the band of brothers realize theyave been double-crossed by one of their own – and putting the situation right will be all out war.
Fat Buddies 胖子行动队 (BAO Beier 包贝尔, 90 min, 2018)
Action/Adventure. The film revolves around a pair of big-boned, bumbling cops who find themselves at the heart of a drug trafficking case.