{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Monday, July 06, 2015

24 City

24 City chronicles 9 first-person recollections (out of which 4 done with professional actors) of their lives and times in a state-run military factory complex in Chengdu, China that is being demolished to erect luxury futuristic apartments (eponymous 24 City). Jia Zhangke, a master of composition, records passage of time by juxtaposing the old and the new - a lady retelling an old story as the new constructions overlooks in the background, a modern young girl in designer clothes chokes while telling about her parents, getting a breath and strength by saying "I am the daughter of workers". Also Jia Zhangke takes notice of how fast landscape of China is changing. One thing which cinema is good at doing is preserving past. It should be noted that where as in Still Life Jia Zhangke was trying to preserve a collapsing landscape though camera, here in 24 City, it is mostly memories (untold and soon to be forgotten) attached to the factory complex. And when you deal with memories there is always a re-creation of past, and which involves imagination. So it is no wonder that 4 of the 9 interview are fictional accounts. It is not a post-modern approach to make it a pseudo-documentary but its like connecting unfinished story segments (Jia Zhangke took numerous interviews) and use fiction and imagination to fully comprehend and convey the feelings of the people involved. It also connects with the Jia Zhangke's use of pop culture to evoke collective memory of their times. Also, Jia Zhangke does something which I coined as "moving portraits". Moving portrait is a shot created when a subject stands for a still portrait but the portrait is captured as a moving image. The worst thing about photography is its lack of depth in terms of time, usually I am more interested in the space and time before and after the pose. Jia Zhangke does exactly that in his "Moving Portraits". It captures the sublime - the uneasiness, the pre and post-pose person, and by definition if camera lingers, it invariably captures some truth. The pose in the moving portrait is a hint of unreal but it helps reveal something real. Jia Zhangke’s 24 City too reveals more than it shows.

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