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Still Life [2006] [DVD]

Superbly filmed amidst the mesmerising scenery of the Three Gorges during the time it was being prepared for flooding as a dam.

There are two separate plots about characters coming to the town to contact lost partners, Sanming (Sanming Han) confused and believing he is looking for his daughter, and Shen Hong (Tao Zhao) looking for her husband.

The minimal plot is supportive of the motive behind the film, the contrasts and stress of a country in turmoil of change, with Sanming representing tradition values and losers in the race for wealth, and Shen Hong part of the emergent middle class.

The events in each of the two plots mirror each other, but have different emphasis and outcomes. Sanming becomes a demolition worker forming a natural bond with his work mates. Shen Hong on the other hand is always isolated and remains remote from everyone except an archaeologist from outside the area.

The backdrop for both stories is the breathtaking scenery of the Three Gorges contrasted with the manual demolition of skyscrapers in a town due to be flooded.

The Director Zhang Ki Jia introduces some bizarre and gratuitous elements into the film and the excellent documentary is compulsory viewing for understanding these and also the meaning of the film.

There is a companion piece called "Dong" shot in the same location, including some scenes from Still Life about a real life great Chinese painter called "Dong" seen painting enormous canvases of the demolition workers and women in Bangkok. This is a major production in its own right,

Absolutely unmissable for lovers of Chinese films.
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on 4 February 2011
I wanted to see whether this captured the look and feel of the submerged Cities that now lie beneath the damned Yangste, and it certainly captures the understated fragile beauty of this world river. Should be watched just after reading The longest River about the Yangste. The story is also beautiful in an earthy way, and reminds me of the Chungking Express WKW film. This is contemplative film which immerses you in this part of China. I always think of it as comparable to the American Midwest - in both very dissimilar places the people take this philosophical view of life which is to be lived in this place. I think it should sit very squarely in the Chinese section of World cinema.
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on 2 November 2011
I have recently taken to Asian Cinema, especially Chinese Films. What the other reviewers has mentioned about this film is completely true. The film takes us on a Journey of a husband looking for his wife, and daughter, and at the same time, a women looking for her husband. But the characters are unrelated. This happens during the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. The demolition of lower lying areas are fundamental to its creation, and subsequently every man made structure erected under its current level is systematically demolished by workers, while its inhabitants are displaced elsewhere, including Samnings wife.

There is a certain sadness to the film and a deep underlying peril. What if Sanming does not find his wife, and whereabouts about his daughter before everything is flooded? It also creates a desolate landscape where once was a thriving community, now the skeletons of buildings and abandoned factories mark the otherwise beautiful landscape. The musical score is equally mesmerizing and dreamy of a soon to be submerged landscape.

An incredible film. With the simplest of ingredients, a masterful combination of sight and sound has been created. A film that lingers long after and leaves you soothed and calm and content.
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on 8 May 2015
A slice of life showing some relatively poor urban workers amidst the demolition and construction involved with the gigantic Three Gorges project. You first see a man looking for the wife who divorced him, and their daughter. Later another story thread starts - a woman looking for her husband, who has not been home for a long time.

Both stories develop slowly but have unexpected twists. It gives you a vivid picture of life in that part of China, still poor but rising. It was made in China and shown there freely.
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on 2 August 2014
Deeply moving and shot as a floating poet, Jia's STILL LIFE is destined to be one of the mopst unforgettable Chnese films of our time. Not only because of its preciousness----shot for people who were almost forced to leave their hometown because of SAN XIA, which was built with high controversy, but also because of Jia's excellent storyline and chapterized structure, which deeply cut into the surface of the event, and successfully brought out the ssence of humanity and everlasting emotions. BRAVO FOREVER. Besides, the BFI edition's image quality is a little worse than the US NEW YORKER edition, which also has more bonus materials than BFI edition. However, BFI's deluxe booklet is definitely not to be missed. So, have both if you'd like to.
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on 11 September 2011
In treating the issue of the creation of the Three Gorges Dam and its enormous social disruption all the way up the River Yangtze, Director Zhang Ki Jia goes for the intimate rather than the grand scale, but the backdrop of real scenes of change along the river give a very real immediacy and poignancy to the two individual interwoven stories. The plot is carefully put together so as to maximise the use of what is happening in the world surrounding the action, much of which appears unscripted and incidental, to illustrate and expand on the stories being told. The film is riveting to watch, right from its opening review of fellow river passengers on a crowded boat, and as we see characters from the two stories criss-cross each other. It is utterly absorbing in its action, but you need to pay attention: it is cleverly constructed and edited and nothing happens by chance (although, and this is a warning, one or two of the quirky artifices used by the director - such as the graphic of a rocket taking off - confound rather than illuminate!). All in all, however, this is cinema of the highest quality.
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on 8 January 2015
Great film
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on 2 August 2012
Slow moving but subtle, I didn't get to the end of the film but I think it was a powerful exploration of interpersonal relationships against the back drop of a changing China.
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