Mountains May Depart Infinitely close to transparent gray

Perhaps, after Jia Zhangke moved away from the early, gray and coarse works of Xiao Wu and The Platform, fans’ judgment of him was destined to split. This has to do with people’s insight and growth rate, as well as Jia Zhangke’s own running rhythm. On the whole, many viewers stopped where they were, while Jia Zhangke himself promoted himself.Most people initially fell in love with Jia Zhangke because of his innate, choking dustiness. Many people felt that Jia Zhangke must remain so dusty, like a desperate nail, and that it was necessary to play the spokesman of the marginal and determined for life, even at the cost of rusting himself. But how can Jia Zhangke trap himself? If his ambition was really so narrow, then his initial works would not have permeated with the kind of power that hits the heart. Therefore, Jia Zhangke’s change is predestined. He moved from narrating his own experience to becoming an author who could write fictionally about a much larger world, a turn that was a necessary step to becoming a true director. Many art film directors with high expectations have been trapped before that threshold. Jia Zhangke crosses that delicate chasm smoothly, and not at the cost of damaging his own identity.

Compared to “Doomed,” “The Hills and Rivers” may have a higher degree of word-of-mouth consensus, but it’s unlikely to be fully reconciled. Those who like it will think that Jia Zhangke has established an unshakable international status, while those who don’t like it, this film, with its spatial line spanning the oceans and its timeline pointing straight to the future, is simply a pile of hard evidence of over-pretentiousness.

In fact, even though Jia Zhangke shot a beach house and a private jet and a sci-fi tablet computer in The Hills and Rivers, the film is still particularly “Jia Zhangke” because the anchor you find by following the clues is still deeply rooted in the county of Shanxi.

At one time, Jia Zhangke wanted to stay away from the county, and he once asked rhetorically, “Will I just shoot the county?” In fact, he didn’t care much whether he was shooting the county or the city. Because in the overall sense, China itself is a huge county town – unbridled, wild, unconventional, and with extraordinary vitality.

And Jia Zhangke’s presentation of all this is not happy or sad, flexible and debilitating. This diminutive man has a unique ability to walk relaxed on the red carpet of Europe, or instantly back to the small noodle shop in the county, and you can hardly see the cultural time difference in him. Too many directors can only take into account one cultural context, while Jia Zhangke can shoot China from a standard Chinese perspective, but at the same time has a wonderful global flavor. This comes from Jia Zhangke’s approach to China, a mix of spectatorship and intimacy. He understands the country to a high degree, yet is naturally wary and detached from it.

This way of presenting China is very obvious in The Hills and Rivers. At times, it even has a high degree of strangeness and a high degree of intimacy at the same time. For example, the setting about the future. In fact, the story that flings itself into the future is not pretentious at all; it is a timeline that grows naturally. Rather than saying that the details in it have science fiction elements, it is more like magic squeezed out of the cracks of reality, like a ghostly stroke, just like the rocket that suddenly went up into the sky in “The Good People of Three Gorges”.

The Hills and Rivers” is completely different from the previous film “The Doomed”. It’s more like Jia Zhangke’s anger, a whine and a fall. He hardly uses his best patience and mitigation techniques to further deepen his complaints and venting, nor does he explore the spirituality of doomed violence and sudden death. The “The Hills and the River” is like an episode, as if a man with a character but a temper has been venting, and after venting, he tidies up again. And “The Hills and the River” is a complete return from that short, explosive breath and rhythm, once again with a long respite. It’s a soothing, patient, but cruel story. And this time the cruelty comes not from social conflict and physical violence, but from the more unspeakable fate and the grinding mantle of time.

The fate of the three people in the film presents the three most typical splits of this era. Initially, it is the change of the times that divides them, as they choose their own destiny, consciously interspersed with the unconscious. Some people feel they can ride on the times, and are determined to win; some feel they can look at fate more highly, as if they are not surprised by the chaos but eventually fail; some make the choice of maximizing the benefits in going with the flow. And when the time passed, not only were they divided by fate, but the three of them also began to divide themselves once again.

In the end, the child becomes the most tragic symbol, like an innocent atom floating in the world, drifting from the county of Shanxi to Shanghai, and then to Australia, imprisoned and freed at the edge of the ocean, in a desperate forgetful love in the sky. And the identity of the woman with whom they are intimate is also highly symbolic, teacher, mother, lover, and intimate in the ethnographic sense …… two people exiled from their own world, seeking spiritual tangibility with physical welding in a foreign land, but ultimately destined to alienate each other even further. They want to buy a ticket to go back to Shanxi, but in the end they can’t because of a quarrel. This is not only a realistic dilemma, but also a spiritual metaphor. How can people really go back to the past? In a way, the last part of the presentation about the future has brutally told us that people who were once intimate have been scattered by time, they are not only separated by the physical sense of the ocean, but actually separated by the spiritual sub-dimension. Tao, who is making dumplings in an empty house, and his son, who is standing alone on the shore of the ocean, where are they still in the same universe?

People always think they are geographically separated, but in fact, when China’s speed of change exceeds the norm, the environment we live in is already like a centrifuge, throwing us into different wormholes long ago. The saddest thing is that we always think there is a possibility of reuniting with each other. But the seeds of permanent separation were planted from the very beginning. When the silk-scarfed son was taken off the plane by the stewardess; when he hesitated to kneel in front of his grandfather’s coffin; when she called out to his mommy, it was already destined that mommy and son were lost to each other forever. In the end, the yellow-skinned child forgets his mother tongue and is planted in Australia, leaving behind only a name called “Dollar”, a name that is reminiscent of the brutal and undisguised ambition of China’s transition, like a scar that leaves the child unsettled in any culture.

In this sense, the work has a strong tone of sadness, like most of Jia Zhangke’s work. He doesn’t mean to present a dramatic sadness, but the country he presents has a lingering tragic coating of its own.

Most Chinese audiences are unable to accept films that are highly reductive to life, which stems from people’s avoidance of real life. There are too many scruples and discontents, so they want to turn their heads and ears away. They can’t accept that the screen is like a mirror reflecting the cruel reality, and Jia Zhangke’s works have a silent sense of compulsion, forcing people to look through the huge screen to their own lives that have nowhere to escape. This is why Jia Zhangke’s works can never be rewarded at the box office in China today. For those who tell the truth, some celebrate them as heroes, while others rebuke them for unveiling their false protective colors.

For more fans who have loved Jia Zhangke since his early days, his appeal lies in a certain resistance to the pretty, to the polished, to the uplifting. He is an artist in the standard sense of the word, only that the images he objectively loves are not the same as the official and mainstream discourse that is happy to speak in the context of the rise of this great nation. He is not the kind of director who deliberately shoots black events to pierce China, much less the kind of director who shades China with bright red curtains, nor is he the kind of director who paints China with pink splendor to make people forget reality. He is infinitely closer to transparent gray. He has been flying close to the ground in a China strewn with spittle, dust, opportunities and small advertisements.

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