Still Life review

Jia Zhang-ke’s tale of a middle-aged coal miner (Han Sanming) returning to his hometown in search of his estranged wife, only to find that she has been evacuated as part of the Three Gorges dam project, is as meandering as the Yangtze itself. Gently commenting on the ways economic progress affects rural populations, the Chinese director’s vision of a community dismantling itself in preparation for the oncoming deluge is strangely hypnotic. We see buildings felled, tidemarks daubed onto walls and a spectacular new bridge being illuminated. Then there’s the flying saucer that whizzes mysteriously past and the dilapidated edifice that shoots off like a rocket into the sky. Such surrealist rumbles make Still Life a hauntingly unique testament to a way of life that’s soon to be under water.

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