Chung Kuo – China Screen 7 articles

Chung Kuo – China

1972

Chung Kuo – China Poster
  • The material seemed somewhat repetitive and at times rather obvious. . . . One does tire just a little of peasants with smiling faces who take us through the whole process of their work, from planting seeds to selling the greens at the local market.

  • A truly exploratory documentary that moves from north to south, from the present into memories of the past, from youth to old age, from play to work and back again, from geography to ideology: Antonioni weaves all of his perceptions of this vast, beautiful, and largely unknown land into surprisingly joyous cinematic music.

  • One of Antonioni's most important works. . . . The result was less a documentary or travelogue than a classic Antonionian meditation, focusing on the "faces, gestures, habits" of the people and the textures, spaces, and contours of the urban and rural landscapes.

  • How did an Italian film director wind up rubbing shoulders with Marx, Lenin and the Chinese Communist Party in the lyrics of a children’s ditty? Even more peculiarly, why were Chinese children being mobilised en masse to —frankly speaking— piss him off? . . . The answers involve one of the most fascinating side-stories of the Cultural Revolution, as well as what is emerging as one of the most precious records of twentieth-century China.

  • When I first saw the film in Sydney back in the early 2000s, I knew very little about China. . . . [Antonioni's] images so enthralled me they added considerable impetus to my long-held desire to visit the country, which I did for the first time shortly after. Although I now look at the film through the filter of four years living in Beijing and numerous other visits to China, my admiration for Antonioni’s documentary has, if anything, increased.

  • It is a major accomplishment by a great filmmaker. . . . Antonioni’s sense of China as offering a “vast repertoire of human behavior” might seem patronizing, but his travelogue is generally affirmative and admiring as well as entrancing.

  • In eschewing interviews, Chung Kuo—Cina differs markedly from Joris Ivens’s 763-minute China-shot documentary behemoth How Yukong Moved the Mountains (1976), but the reason for Antonioni’s tactic is clear. He trusts the testimony of the camera-eye to tell him something that no vetted and overseen interview will. Barbato later provides a final disclaimer, drawn from a Chinese proverb: “You can depict a tiger’s skin, but not his bones. You can depict people’s faces, but not their hearts.”

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