‘Ripples Of Life’: Cannes Review | Comments


Director: Wei Shujun. China. 2021. 123 minutes

Quickly keeping the promise of his first semi-autobiographical freewheeling feature Walk in the wind (2020), director Wei Shujun returns with Ripples of life, a skilful rumination on the pursuit of authenticity. Divided into three chapters, it revolves around the production of a high-tech film in a remote town and compares to Hong Sang-soo’s meta-comedies in that one character is even complimented on his likeness. with the muse of South Korean author Kim. Min-hee. Regardless of his openly recognized arthouse influences, Wei greatly develops his own idiosyncratic sensibility. Ripples of life sees the emerging author continue to draw frankly from his own immediate experiences while questioning the role of cinema in an increasingly fragmented Chinese society.

Satirically notes how China’s rural areas and the lives of their people have been aestheticized by filmmakers seeking credibility

Premiere at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, Ripples of life looks set to make waves as the kind of filmmaker’s delight that the festival circuit is all about. Although cinema films generally have a niche appeal, sales of international specialties could prove fruitful as Wei offers a deconstruction particularly inspired by the solemn regional portraits that have become a staple of Chinese independent cinema.

The first chapter observes the pre-production process from the perspective of bored waitress Xiao Gu (Huang Miyi), who regularly serves her in-laws’ restaurant team and begins to dream of a more glamorous life. Gu catches the attention of the making-of director (Yang Pingdao) and is thrilled to land a minor role in the film, but is brought back to reality when the star arrives there.

In the second chapter, actress Chen Chen (Yang Zishan) receives a warm welcome from the community, as she grew up in the city before leaving to pursue a bright future in the dramatic arts. Although eager to reconnect with old friends, Chen discovers that they either want to harness her fame for publicity purposes or that the lifestyle differences are impossible to overcome, leaving her to wonder if one can really ” go home”.

The third chapter focuses on the project’s beleaguered creative connection with a director (Liu Yang) emboldened by critical success prompting an insecure screenwriter (the film’s real screenwriter, Kang Chunlei) to complete the final project as it nears the end. start date. Essentially, it’s a double that pits the director’s claims of aesthetic brilliance against the more serious writer’s way, as they disagree on every aspect of the material, from the story to the theme.

Structurally, the film flows smoothly from capturing mundane everyday existence, to evoking nostalgia, and portraying a beating attempt to capture its very essence. Parallel lives are presented in the first and second chapters. Gu’s mundane responsibilities (shopping at the wholesale market, recommending menu items, breastfeeding her baby) and naive celebrity fantasies contrast sharply with Chen’s awareness of being “the pride of his hometown.” will prevent him from relapsing into easy interactions with former classmates, despite his apparent humility.

While these chapters are characterized by astute observation, the third is infinitely more talkative in its meta-commentary with Wei embarking on a self-reflective dismantling of artistic pretensions (the movie-in-a-movie is also titled “Ripples of Life”) . By dramatizing the process of making a certain type of Chinese cinema – the director here aspires to make a “Checkovian tragedy” in a place where “time is frozen” – Wei satirically notes how rural areas and life in their inhabitants have been aestheticized by filmmakers in search of credibility.

These changes in tone are subtly navigated within the cohesive visual framework offered by the elegant cinematography of Wang Jiehong and the typically precise editing of Matthieu Laclau. Wei favors wide shots but discreetly modifies his style from the static compositions of Walk in the wind with stable panoramas and traveling shots to cover the circus that ensues when a film crew sets up shop in a small town.

It also gives its actors the opportunity to act out scenes that reveal long shots. Perfectly portrayed as striking counterparts, relative newcomer Huang has moments of natural poignantness as Yang deftly riffs on her star image as an actress entering a new stage in her career. Also playing opposites, Liu and Kang engage in a passionate interaction that swings so wildly from camaraderie to resentment that it’s a blessed relief when the shock of an international news event transcends their artist’s bottleneck. .

Whatever creative differences they may have experienced, Wei and his screenwriter have certainly enjoyed a more productive collaboration than their exasperated alter-egos like Ripples of life is an exceptionally accomplished second feature film.

Production companies: Factory Gate Films, Inner Self Films

International sales: Rediance, [email protected]

Producers: Huang Xufeng, Liang Ying

Screenplay: Kang Chunlei, Wei Shujun

Editing: Matthieu Laclau

Photography: Wang Jiehong

Main actors: Yang Zishan, Huang Miyi, Liu Yang, Kang Chunlei

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