Chinese director-writer Bi Gan’s second feature, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, which premiered at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, is set in Kaili like his first feature Kaili Blues. The film has nothing in common with Eugene O’Neill’s play by the same name or with the film’s Chinese title Last Evenings on Earth, a short story collection by Roberto Bolaño. They’re both just amongst many literary and artistic references that are scattered throughout the film.
Protagonist Luo Hongwa (Huang Jue) gives to us one of the central mysteries of the film by questioning the reality of fragmented memories in the first scene, as he reminisces about a love affair he had many years ago. Throughout the film, we’re never sure if what we’re seeing is a memory or a dream, reality or plays of Hongwa’s subconscious. The first 70 minutes of the film delve into that love affair between Luo and Wan Qiwen (Tang Wei), a woman straight out of a femme fatale section of a character trope book. There are ambiguous plotlines about their mutual friend Wildcat’s murder, Luo’s father’s restaurant, a green book, but none of them reach somewhere. They’re more like part of the flow than devices that advance or enrich the story.
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Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s long awaited new film The Wild Pear Tree premiered at Cannes this year. Its near 190-minute runtime might be scary for audiences that are not familiar with Ceylan’s work, but it is merely a surprise to cognizant audiences. However, the film has such a captivating flow that the viewers might not even perceive the passing of three hours – it is definitely more entertaining than his last film Winter Sleep which was also over three hours. Unlike his previous films which were decorated with elegant images of nature, The Wild Pear Tree is visually more raw; less pastoral beauty and more crooked landscapes that people live in. The shots are still representative of the director’s distinctive poeticism, and the brutal landscapes are the perfect reflections of the subject matter that is the deeply rooted in the suffocating anxiety spread across the young people of Turkey.
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Children see themselves and their parents as parts of a single whole we call family. Some children realise later in life, as adults, the individuality of the parts that make up the family. In other cases, they’re forced to realise this when the whole collapses. A child is in one of the most helpless states they can be when they have to watch that collapse, witnessing everything that’ll contribute to the outcome that they somehow know is about to happen. A child cannot choose sides between two people who they once thought were a whole, and as we watch Wildlife through the eyes of a child in the middle of a collapsing marriage, director Paul Dano asks us, very delicately, not to choose sides either.
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