Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Hubert Bals Fund), Jan. 30, 2000. Original title: Zhi. Running time: 60 MIN.
With: Chen Ying, Dan Da, Zhou Zhe, Cong Zhijun, Zhou Yunpeng.
Director of two makings-of on the films of Chinese helmer Zhang Yimou, Ding Jiancheng gently swings toward fiction, of an abstract sort, in the hourlong “Paper.” In this mood piece, the melancholy atmosphere of the Cultural Revolution in the mid-’70s is evoked through a succession of highly poetic, almost wordless images that alternate between color and B&W. Though pic has a small story to tell, it is hardly a narrative film at all, and will have to carve out a tiny niche for itself with visually oriented festival auds.
A blank-faced teenage boy (Chen Ying) starts visiting a sad old man who crafts paper horses out of propaganda posters. The man pines for his dead daughter, while the boy yearns for a love of his own. From the meditatively long opening shot of a busy street to closely observed moments in the lives of ordinary people in a poor neighborhood, Ding and cinematographer Xu Wei hunt down the poetry and beauty of life. Film’s extremely stretched out, Zen-like rhythm requires mucho patience.