Ghost Town Tours the U.S. – Catch It If You Can

From dGenerate – I’ve worked my ass off to get this tour together, so if you happen to be at one of these cities and the following critic raves pique your interest, please check it out!

A.O. Scott writes in the New York Times:

Zhao has an exquisite ability to balance words with images… The life stories and household interactions that fill out the film’s three chapters take place against a natural background that is shot beautifully… A miniature epic of the everyday.

Time Out New York‘s David Fear gives the film four stars:

Zhao Dayong’s extraordinary documentary on life in the rural village of Zhiziluo, nestled at the foot of the mountains in China’s southwestern Yunnan province. Never mind the nation’s great economic leap forward; the longer you watch Zhao’s chronicle of the financially destitute and the bureaucratically forgotten, the more you feel that you’re witnessing a country fraying at its edges.

Nick Pinkterton in the Village Voice:

I do not expect to soon find scenes to match Ghost Town‘s mountaintop funeral, the running along after a rowdy exorcism, or the scanning of faces at the town Christmas chorale. His back to prosperity, Dayong finds hallowed ground.

Following its weeklong run at MoMA, Zhao Dayong’s acclaimed documentary Ghost Town is screening over the next several weeks at select US engagements. Contact us to book a screening of this film at your festival, museum, or school.

Ghost Town (dir. Zhao Dayong)

Union Theatre, University of Wisconsin
800 Langdon Street
Milwaukee, WI 53706

Southwest Film Center
3601 University Boulevard, SE
Albuquerque, NM 87106

Facets Cinematheque
1517 Fullerton Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614

University of Colorado, Humanities 150
Boulder, CO 80309-0234

Melnitz Movies
James Bridges Theater, Melnitz 1409
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Have One on Me: The 1000th Film


So I’m down to the 1000th and final movie to complete this project.  For those of you who’ve been following this blog over the years, I’d like to invite you to a special free screening of the film that I’ve arranged at Anthology Film Archives, 32 2nd Ave @ 2nd St, Thursday, April 8 at 8pm. For now, I’m leaving the identity of the film a secret, except that it’s unavailable on DVD in the US, and that one of my favorite film critics calls it “the sort of work that can renew one’s faith in movies.”

Again, the screening is free. BYOB (and bring a few more if you’re feeling generous).  If you want me to save you a seat, just leave a comment here or email me at alsolikelife (at) gmail (dot) com.

Hope to see you there.


If you happen to be in the Philly/Swarthmore area…


On Tuesday March 30 at Swarthmore College, Vice President of Programming Kevin B. Lee will speak about issues in contemporary Chinese cinema and his work with dGenerate Films.

Following Mr. Lee’s talk will be a screening of Fujian Blue, a 2007 film by Weng Shouming, that has played in various international film festivals and won the Dragons and Tigers Award at the 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival.

The China Film Journal writes that the film is “an absorbing narrative of deeply felt characters, a trenchant social commentary, and a tone poem to a nearly-lost generation.”

Admission Free. Sponsored by SAO as part of the APIA Heritage Month, Film and Media Studies program, FFS, Movie Committee and FOTS.

Location Information:
Science Center, Room 101
Swarthmore College
Swarthmore, PA

Video of My Evening with Jia Zhangke

Those who follow the dGenerate Films website may already have seen this, but on that site I’ve posted several videos of the MoMA event “An Evening with Jia Zhangke.” My favorite moment (besides comparing Zhao Tao to Anna Karina, Monica Vitti and Marlene Dietrich) is the four minute mark in the video below. See the rest here.

Check out the Award-Winning Betelnut This Friday at Asia Society!

(cross-posted on dGenerate Films)

Yang Heng’s Betelnut, winner of the Best First Feature at the Pusan Film Festival and the Critics’ Jury Prize at the Hong Kong Film Festival, will make its New York debut at the Asia Society as part of the series “China’s Past , Present and Future on Film.” You can use discount code asia725 to buy tickets at the $7 member rate. Tickets can be purchased at the Asia Society website or at the Asia Society box office.

Betelnut (Bing Lang)
YANG Heng. China. 2005. 112 min. Narrative. Digibeta.
Friday, March 26, 6:45 pm

Asia Society and Museum
725 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021

View a clip from the film below. Further details about the film can be found here, and after the break.

Continue reading “Check out the Award-Winning Betelnut This Friday at Asia Society!”

Announcing the Winner of the Shooting Down Pictures Fansub Challenge

I’m pleased to announce that the Shooting Down Pictures Fansub Challenge has a winner. Peaceful Anarchy answered my call to produce English fansubs for the mile-a-minute dialogue for Luis Garcia Berlanga’s Placido, and has thus earned the $150 prize ($10 more than I advertised! I really need to pay more attention to my own blog).

You can download the .srt file by right-clicking here. It’s also been uploaded to some movie file share sites, which are where you can find the movie itself. Feel free to give feedback on both the movie and the subs – I think this film is an absolute masterpiece and hope that others feel the same.

Critics clash over City of Life and Death

<i>City of LIfe and Death</i> (dir. Lu Chuan)

City of Life and Death (dir. Lu Chuan)

(Cross-published on dGenerate Films)

Lu Chuan’s controversial Nanjing Massacre movie City of Life and Deathpicked up the Best Director award at thefourth Asian Film Awards, held during the Hong Kong International Film Festival. While the film continues to gain attention following its successful theatrical run in China and international premiere at the Toronto Film Festival last year, it has yet to be shown theatrically in the US, following an aborted spring release with National Geographic.

Meanwhile, it’s generated a bit of a quarrel among film critics. Shelly Kraicer, who reviewed the film earlier on our site, issued a lengthier critique in Cinema-scope. An excerpt:

“A look at City of Life and Death’s genre and narrative strategies can demonstrate its importance in helping to establish what I’d like to call a nascent post-zhuxuanlu cinema. It is a full-out war epic, massively budgeted and vast in ambition. Huge sets of devastated Nanjing were built, and thousands of extras mobilized to illustrate the battle scenes that open the film. Lu films his striking set pieces in a beautifully modulated black and white, where cinematography, art direction, staging, music, and sound design all conspire to create massive, intentionally overwhelming images of violence, horror, and devastation.”

The review has drawn the ire of Asian film stalwart Tony Rayns (who happens to co-program the Asian film selections at the Vancouver Inernational Film Festival), who issues seven bullet-pointed rebuttals to Kraicer’s review. An excerpt:

As a long-term resident of Beijing, Shelly may have noticed that China’s unelected leadership (so sensitive to the least whisper of criticism) decided some years ago to stop pushing Maoist/communist slogans to legitimate its rule and decided instead to promote a strong nationalist consciousness. All factions of the leadership do it, including president Wen Jiabao’s and premier Hu Jintao’s. We saw the fruits of their endeavors in the behavior of Chinese students overseas when they beat up pro-Tibet and pro-Xinjiang protestors during the international tour of the Olympic torch. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Shelly that the hostility to City of Life and Death in China – after its initial enormous success with the public – might have something to do with its refusal to bow to this neo-nationalist tide. Nobody watching City of Life and Death could seriously interpret it as being pro-Japanese; the film shows Japanese soldiers committing numerous war-crimes, and does so without sensationalism and without finding any vicarious pleasure in the spectacle. But Lu’s decision to make one of his recurring protagonists a naïve Japanese sergeant effectively defuses the nationalist thrust found in earlier films about the massacres, such as Wu Ziniu’s unspeakable Don’t Cry Nanjing. In attacking Lu’s film, Shelly seems to be reaching for solidarity with his nationalist friends in Chinese film circles. My view is that the film deserves to be defended from their fatuous and dishonest attacks.

On the Cineaste website, dGenerate’s Kevin B. Lee has his own take . An excerpt:

The imperative to honor the longstanding domestic account of the tragedy, offset by the desire to avoid fraying international ties, and further complicated by the desire to appeal to a global audience with its own expectations of art-house entertainment, makes for one of the most compelling filmmaking gauntlets to be found. These three agendas—political, cultural, commercial—wage a battle within City of Life and Deaththat’s as compelling as the one the film depicts. The film certainly qualifies as an “incoherent text,” to borrow Robin Wood’s phrase, informed by competing social ideologies and commercial ambitions that result in a work of fascinating dissonance.

Full review here.

For an alternative view of the Japanese occupation of China and the story of “comfort women” – women who were forced to sexually serve Japanese soldiers – check out Ban Zhongyi’s extraordinary documentary Gai Shanxi and Her Sistersscreening at Asia Society on April 9.

A Belated report from Berlinale

My, it’s been quiet here for some time. What have I been up to? I guess things fell off on this blog about the time I went to Berlin – so maybe I should link to my coverage for The Auteurs. You’ll note special attention paid to the films of Yasujiro Shimazu and to the Forum Expanded installations, both of which were the most exciting things I saw in Berlin. Here’s a video I shot of the James Benning installation Tulare Road (hope he doesn’t mind), which is particularly amusing for one German infant’s interactive participation with it: