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Frozen

An intense, disillusioned reflection about being an artist in an unaccommodating environment, "Frozen" appears to have much to say about the condition of filmmakers working outside the system in mainland China today. Shot in Beijing and brought to the Netherlands for post-production, the film was directed by a prominent Sixth Generation figure forced to work under the pseudonym Wu Ming --- literally "no name" --- by the 1996 Chinese legislation that prohibits independent filmmaking. Considerable festival play looms for this solemn, audacious drama. The central character is painter and performance artist Qi Lei (Jia Hongshen), whose frustration with the coldly materialistic society in which he lives feeds his growing obsession with death. He plans a four-part performance piece, staging his death four times over the course of a year, with one burial per season.

With:
Qi Lei ... Jia Hongshen Shao Yun ... Ma Xiaoqing

The performances depict death by interment, by drowning and by fire; the final stage is to be death by hypothermia, a project Qi calls “Funeral in Ice.”

Despite the efforts of his girlfriend Shao Yun (Ma Xiaoqing) to dissuade him, Qi proceeds with his plans, alienating himself from Shao and his family as the scheduled day of his funeral draws near. With the aid of a few art student accomplices, he fakes his death and goes into hiding. But his “afterlife” observations provide no relief, underlining the ephemeral nature of artistic achievement and of the commitment of his so-called supporters.

Despite the somewhat rarefied quest of its protagonist, “Frozen” makes the events it portrays surprisingly immediate, posing more questions than it ultimately answers about art, integrity and the conditions that push artists into exile.

Starkly but functionally shot, this intimate production stands to spark interest first and foremost as an uncompromising philosophical and political statement.

Frozen

Chinese - Dutch - Hong Kong

Production: An Another Film Co. (Amsterdam), Shu Kei's Creative Workshop (Hong Kong) production in association with the Hubert Bals Foundation (Rotterdam). (International sales: Fortissimo, Amsterdam.) Produced by Xu Wei, Shu Kei. Executive producer, Pang Ming. Co-producers, Zhu Bing, Feng Xiun. Directed by Wu Ming. Screenplay, Pang Ming, Wu Ming.

Crew: Camera (color, 16 mm), Yang Shu; editor, Qing Qing; music, Roeland Dol; art direction, Li Yanxiu; sound, Zhai Ling; assistant director, Li Huatong. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (competing), Feb. 5, 1997. Running time: 101 MIN.

With: Qi Lei ... Jia Hongshen Shao Yun ... Ma Xiaoqing

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