Blowup was one of those films that changed how I look at cinema, and then how I imagined performance. Early in my life in Melbourne after discovering him through a flatmate who adored L’Avventura, I spent a week in the library watching as many of his films as I could find. I bought and read books on him and when I was in China, to discover his films on DVD was a special treat. I still have yet to see his documentary on China during the Cultural Revolution, Chung Kuo – Cina. It seems to be a year of deaths of people who have deeply affected me.
A late night swirling Pernod with Bonnie at Orange and an early trip to the shops for Sunday fruit, now on with the important task of keeping you entertained.
One film I never did manage to find in Guangzhou, despite being banned for decades was Michelangelo Antonioni’s Chung Kuo – Cina. Zhou Enlai and others were hoping for an ode to the marvelousness of the Cultural Revolution and communist China, what they got was not what they wanted. As for the four hour documentary now, The 88s tell all about it.
A Fifty year long provincial border war in China that only reached ceasefire a couple of years ago, Nationalist and Communist maps, enclaves, exclaves, and internal border adjustments that were only made legally binding in 2002. Mutant Palm has the cartography and the translation of 微山湖畔边界械斗50年 The Fifty Year War on the Banks of Weishan Lake.
“If Guangzhou’s problem with street crime makes southern China seem a dangerous place … denizens of the province of Guangdong were less worried about the odd mugging or bag snatching than they were about rampant banditry or pillaging rebel armies.” I thought it was Feng37 blogging about media reports of what a scary place Guangzhou is, especially with all those Fulan migrant workers. Actually it’s about the 开平碉楼 watchtowers in Kaiping that are on the verge of UNESCO World Heritage listing.
Uncoy one of my favourite dance/art/european blogs who has provided almost nightly coverage of ImPulsTanz in the past looks at the NYT review of Forsythe Company’s Three Atmospheric Studies, Joni Mitchell and political dance and thanks Bush and Cheney for making dance relevant again.
That’s enough, I’m going to eat dinner now.
Having made some of the most striking films of the new wave in L’Avventura, then setting The Yardbirds on fire in Blow Up, filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni then took off for China to document the revolution in Chung Kuo – Cina. Despite having the blessing of the communist party, the film was banned and has not been officially screened in China until now. The Globe and Mail look at the screening and the audience reaction, and EastSouthWestNorth has an excellent essay by Susan Sontag on the Chinese press’ attacks after it’s release.
Chung Kuo bears all the marks of Mr. Antonioni’s distinctively oblique style, the same enigmatic approach that caused such controversy in the cinema world when L’Avventura was released in 1960. The film contains not a single interview and not a single sentence of political analysis. The filmmaker deliberately rejected the conventions of script or story.
“I went to China not in order to know it but to have a look and to record what was passing in front of my eyes,” he said later.
The film succeeds as an artistic work and as a portrait of ordinary life in an isolated country. With his customary detached tone and extremely long takes, the camera gazes at the Chinese people, their faces and movements. Long scenes pass without a word beyond the hubbub of background conversation and the sound of bicycle bells and street noise.