Mountains May Depart Screen 39 articles

Mountains May Depart


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  • The concept is magnificent, but doesn’t quite add up or hold together. Dramatic heft comes and goes in inconsistent ebbs and flows of emotion; a satirical sense of humor pops up occasionally, but is never clearly pronounced; and the film’s increasingly high stakes seem undermined by the haphazard mood in an otherwise meticulously structured work.

  • As always, Jia’s ideas about the deleterious effects of Chinese capitalism are on point, but the dramatic context he’s fashioned for those ideas this time around functions solely as blatant, ungainly subtext. The text itself is corrupt.

  • As a drama I found the film to get worse as it went along. The Balzacian themes went haywire and were limned with an offhandedness I found more idiosyncratic than creative. I wanted to stay in 1999, in the time and place Jia has made his signature, and understand the characters with a more textured realism. Of course the triptych – of past, present and future – allows for panorama and allegory.

  • The forces of history tend to overwhelm the banal souls in front of the camera, who are more representative than real. Jia's last film, A Touch of Sin, solved this problem through the relative sketch-work of what played as four short, focused films. But the broader canvas of Mountains May Depart leaves his weaknesses more exposed.

  • If Jia Zhang-ke’s latest feature was one of 2015’s biggest disappointments, it’s simply because two-thirds of it are so good, making the misjudged final chapter all the more bathetic. Because of that, it’s hard to properly assess the first two sections of Mountains May Depart. You can see how much they promise, but without the context of a final successful whole, you can’t be sure how far they succeed.

  • Often quite absorbing, but if this were Jia's first film I'm pretty sure no-one would be talking about an exciting new talent. The plodding signifiers are one thing - 'Go West' for the Westernisation of China, a plane crash, a tiger in a cage, "I can't come up with good lyrics anymore" - but the bigger issue is a sense that characters are doing big (or Significant) things dictated by the plot, not small things that might reveal their inner nature.

  • Never developing a sense of some potential to be corrupted, the relationship between Jinsheng and Tao lacks anything like pathos, with Jinsheng verging on the ridiculous in his final scenes, wearing a pasted-on moustache. . . . Where Mountains May Depart cuts cleanest and deepest, perhaps unsurprisingly, is when it’s focused on Zhao Tao, Jia’s partner and creative collaborator since they met during the casting of Platform.

  • If “Mountains” feels a touch schematic at times, and awkward in its third-act English-language scenes, the cumulative impact is still enormously touching, highlighted by Jia’s rapturous image-making and a luminous central performance by the director’s regular muse (and wife), Zhao Tao.

  • Dare I ask what does it all mean? I'm honestly not sure, but I can say that no film in the competition so thoroughly kept me ungrounded, unsure of what was to come next, and this despite the fact the story and emotional beats are so tightly structured, direct and perhaps even "conventional." This unmooring—it is this _sense_ that for me indicates something else is at work here, a deeper structure, a more elaborate consideration.

  • The digital technology rings true, but a dated car and a slightly contrived scene involving a visit to a travel agent feel wrong, as indeed does a final brief glimpse of Tao’s lifestyle. That said, Jia undoubtedly remains a major filmmaker, and the film is never less than bold and ambitious. If the last of its three parts falters here and there, it is at the very least an intelligent and intriguing meditation on issues concerning what it means to be Chinese in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

  • Mountains May Depart, particularly in this last section, throws off a melancholy glow, as if Jia has seen his own country take off like a capitalist rocket ship and is searching the sky for streaks of the one he remembers. Maybe that earlier unexplained plane crash is a premonition of sorts. (The movie also includes references to the mysteriously disappeared Malaysian airliner.) What goes up must eventually come down. The best you can hope for is a smooth landing.

  • This knowingly melodramatic look at the past, present, and possible future of China is uneven, moving, and ultimately hard to pin down, its seeming simplicity soon blooming into an enigmatic complexity which harnesses the emotional to address the global.

  • There’s a third part set in Australia in 2025, which concerns the eventual fate of father and son, and it’s this latter part that originally gave me cause for concern... Nonetheless, through its sheer stylistic élan —especially its way of zoning out of transitions by playing with focus and smearing colours like spilled ink – and speedy capturings of transient moods, Mountains is a film I want to see again soon.

  • This film is a utopian project with big ambitions that is never satisfied with itself and its apparently romantic theme. The film moves from one genre to another, one mode to another, and one screen aspect ratio to another; with this in mind, it needs to be seen as a fragmentary movie, a form of experiment in cinema; some sections will remain deep in the mind and others might seem much too sketchy and embryonic.

  • On Day 7 the dependable Jia Zhang-ke came up just a little short with Mountains May Depart, a triptych spanning three decades about selling out in 21st-century China. The knockout opening gave new meaning to the Pet Shop Boys’ “Go West,” but after two emotionally devastating sections, it faltered with a (forgivably) shaky third act set in 2025.

  • As easy as it is to nitpick Jia’s apparent inability to direct English dialogue, there’s no denying the effectiveness of the whole, which takes the standbys of melodrama—flashy suitors, tragic mothers, hometowns—and expands them into a complicated, bittersweet look at loneliness and disconnection in a world of flux.

  • Mountains May Depart is a steadily deflating mess, and (as widely noted) Jia does himself no favors by filming the last third in English. But I found it moving precisely because watching it reminded me that I’ve been watching his work for over a decade. I don’t get the majority of my news from movies, but they do provide a good starting point when deciding what to read up on, and Jia’s films have been consistently illuminating about what change in China looks like.

  • Although Mr. Jia is obviously conversant with the European art film, he has carved out his own ways of making cinematic meaning, an approach that draws on different idioms and traditions. He occasionally folds an image into the mix that can feel enigmatic, but that over time make sense when considered in the context of the movie as a whole. A shot of an old-fashioned pagoda may not make ready sense, may even look like picture-postcard scenery, yet by the end of the movie it may make you weep.

  • [The third segment's] washed-out photography is strikingly ugly, coming after the previous episodes’ restrained but deliberate use of lush colors. When I first saw the film, I wondered if Jia was referencing an awful Australian soap opera, complete with laughable English-speaking actors. But at heart I knew that this was the director’s own vision of the future, and that in pursuing it, he had lost the understated acuity that made the film’s first two parts emotionally devastating.

  • If the later scenes feel more controlled, maybe even airless, it might be because after looking at his characters through a magnifying lens, director Jia has now begun to look through a telescope: They seem less like individuals and more like symbols. And purposefully so. Mountains May Depart may have started off as a look back, maybe even a diagnosis, but it ends as a prophecy.

  • The film is a fascinating, if uneven, blend of melodrama, allegory, and elements of near-future sci-fi. It also serves as a star vehicle for the director’s regular muse and wife Tao Zhao. Her magnetic performance as Tao, the film’s ambitious and morally ambiguous protagonist is the film’s emotional anchor.

  • Jia ultimately believes that China's future may be clarified through endurance, wisdom and a resilient connection with the past. Tao ultimately embodies this dynamic combination. Mountains May Depart respects many lives she's led, and the many she failed to. Despite the film's focus on yearning and separation, it expresses a belief that all aspects of Chinese life can be aligned yet again, like a perfect dance routine choreographed to the right song.

  • The future is an Australian young man looking for his own expression, and learning how to be also from a small town in a remote province of China. Not a nationalistic "son of China," nor a globalized creature. Mother as dialect, in a world where looking back on history has become subversive. Language as a conscience of history, personal and collective. Back to the future. This time, Jia Zhangke has spoken for himself, for his people, and for all of us, more clearly than ever before.

  • Tuesday brought if not the festival’s first masterpiece then certainly one of the best competition films so far: Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart... The film, to me, feels like another breakthrough by a director who has never stopped pushing either himself or his idea of what a Chinese movie can do and be. This one begins as a stupid romantic comedy but ends with an emotional depth that rivals the Mariana Trench.

  • Despite its shortcomings, the Australian segment only takes up 20 minutes or so of the film’s running time and is unable to ruin the whole. The first two chapters are peppered with appealingly mystifying anomalies, which further enrich the central narrative with a fascinating vitality.

  • Jia has often focused on those cast aside by convulsive change; this film, which expands the horizons of both time and space, and follows characters who have been swept up in the modernizing tide, is perhaps his most emotionally direct yet, held together by an enormously moving performance by his wife and regular star, Zhao Tao.

  • Never before have Jia’s themes of globalization and economic paralysis been rendered on such a simultaneously vast yet intimate scale, his vibrant digital images encompassing an entire era of industrialization and an equally vast emotional spectrum. It’s the Cannes title likely to benefit most from a second viewing and a careful consideration of its cultural and cinematic connotations.

  • [It's] a vision of contemporary China that solidifies [Jia's] status, in my view, as the Balzac of the Chinese industrial revolution. Engels said that he learnt more about French society from the novelist’s writings than he did from “all the historians, economists and statisticians of the period together”, and the same can be said about Jia’s cinematic œuvre in relation to the 21stcentury’s new superpower.

  • Jia Zhang-ke’s Mountains May Depart blew us away from the get-go with a chorus line of 20-year-olds doing the Pet Shop Boys’ “Go West.” A glitch in the DCP at the press screening gave us the opportunity of seeing not once but twice Jia’s most exciting opening since the extended traveling shot of Zhao Tao running through backstage corridors in The World.

  • Jia’s film exists on two temporal planes: that of the characters and that of the world, the first of which always moves more slowly than the latter. This is, I believe, an extremely common sensation, and there is no other filmmaker alive who captures it so well. The force of Mountains May Depart is so great that the much-remarked “flaw” of the film’s final section, set in 2025, hardly matters at all.

  • An undertow of melancholy runs through bold Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart, which premiered in Cannes and ambitiously sprawls over three sections set in the past, the present and the future.

  • A lot of the acting is abominable to Western eyes and ears, but far from Sino-pudding, Mountains May Depart is a daring attempt from a filmmaker who is fully embracing his position and duty as a national Chinese artist. He’s shooting off a warning flare to his intended audience of countrymen and -women about what happens if (or when) they surrender blindly to the Western desire for freedom.

  • You will have to see the film to find out what, if anything, occurs between Dollar and the mother he has had no contact with for a dozen years. Can I just mention that “Go West” pops up again, in a context that moves you to tears? Who else could get away with that?

  • Ever more expansive though the film may grow, Mountains May Depart only becomes increasingly intimate and sober, naturally moving to the rhythms of its characters... The film gradually makes clear its shape and purpose, accumulating purpose and regret, moment by moment, just like our lives.

  • In his ambitious, inventive reach from millennial optimism (set back in time with a mix of retro digital formats and stock footage) to booming capitalism and its discontents, to future-tech and nostalgic exile, Jia continues to mix the stuff of classic melodrama—old flames reuniting, loved ones dying, parents sacrificing all for their children—with the deliberate pacing and repressed lyricism of all his dramas.

  • Mountains May Depart is unsparingly honest with the thing that matters most in life: love. And not just the romantic kind, but a very genuine, nearly extinct, dutiful kind of love. Based on the way Jia Zhangke frames his last two shots, I would say that there is hope. Yes, we may lose some of our culture, our dialect, our language, our home, our family, our time together, but even if the future brings about a cultural onslaught of apathy, we can still learn to love one another.

  • With Mountains May Depart, Jia Zhang-ke turns his powers of social observation inward, shifting subjects from the physical migrations in contemporary China to the inner emotional complexities arising from the decades following the nation’s great Cultural Reform. With rare intimacy, the filmmaker’s first foray into melodrama reveals the yearnings, melancholy, and indignations of China’s new secret heart.

  • As the film expands and its characters age, that feeling of being cut adrift only intensifies. It might sound like no earth-shattering insight that money and modernity can erode relationships and a grounded sense of self, but it takes an omniscient (and omnivorous) narrator like Jia to be everywhere—close by the human reality observed in minute interactions, and against the backdrop of a world that threatens to muffle their spirit.

  • With audacious leaps of time and intimate echoes spanning a quarter century of intertwined lives, the director Jia Zhangke endows this romantic melodrama with vast geopolitical import... Jia films these interlocking stories and their diverse tributaries with a bare and restrained simplicity that contains his many levels of rueful outrage. Incidental touches, ranging from music and food to industrial catastrophes and looming violence, evoke a nation out of joint and its lost generations to come.

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