24 City Screen 7 articles

24 City

2008

24 City Poster
  • What emerges in24 City is a moving three-fold meditation: on the many stories of a bygone era, both epic and banal, that are bound to be left untold and forgotten; the many fictions woven—whether by the media, by our ancestors, or by ourselves—into our understanding of reality; and a dying ideology's legacy on how its people tell their stories.

  • Make-up comes up more than once; it's the kind of seemingly trivial signifier Jia knows how to exploit. And that's the film's trick. Much of it is frankly deadly viewing, and I certainly wouldn't recommend anyone unfamiliar with Jia choosing to start here; it could turn you off for life. But for anyone in the mood for a melancholy immersion in the ultra-physical decay of old-school communism's buildings and bodies, it'll linger beyond the tedium of actually watching.

  • It’s no coincidence that [24 City] is also his most woman-centered to date, a perhaps inadvertent reaffirmation of female sorrow as the most convenient signifier of China’s social upheaval. Jia pulls off his invocation of an old-fashioned (often exploitative) melodramatic trope by calling it out as a filmmaker’s tool, situating cinema’s appropriation of female emotion in the same fantastical space as the animated interludes in The World and the UFO sighting in Still Life.

  • The experience of watching this back and forth between the real and the imagined, and between people and places, is at once immersive and distancing... There’s something slightly disorienting about a work that doesn’t have the usual markers that assure you that now you’re watching a fiction, now you’re watching a documentary, which, as I realized on second viewing, can work beautifully for a movie about profound dislocation.

  • [When Joan Chen appears an hour in,] suddenly the veracity of everything that came before is called into question. Were all of the interviewees actually actors? Were they performing words taken from interviews with actual factory workers, or have we only been watching hearing skillfully written monologues? That ambiguity, in a film coming out of Communist China, is fairly subversive.

  • When Kevin B. Lee, in his review in Cineaste (Fall 2009, Vol. XXXIV, No. 4) rightly calls 24 City “an oral history project transformed into performance art,” we should acknowledge that Jia is being both innovative and experimental in one sense and highly traditional and commercial in another.

  • 24 City belies its documentary origins with overtly poetic film language: the film is an elegiac visual symphony of carefully framed compositions,trompe l’oeil camera movements, posed portraits, internal rhymes and mysterious vignettes. It’s also as much a lexicon of body language as anything Andy Warhol achieved in his early portrait reels.

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