Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks Screen 5 articles

Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks

2003

Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks Poster
  • Retreading the same chronological terrain three times, Bing views History as a macro force from three different angles: as manifested in industrial labor, the neighborhoods surrounding this labor, and finally trained on a compact family unit. Duration's unquestionably earned — you need all that time to let the full weight of history sink on you — but it wore me down massively. All those traveling train shots were like an endless reprise of Shoah, slowly chugging along towards oblivion.

  • Capturing moments both large and small — a blast-furnace “mishap,” a plaintive song on the radio asking “Baby, aren’t you tired of this yet?” — this profoundly empathetic and humanist work bears witness to a vanished way of life and the real cost of progress. “Get this place on film now, because it won’t be around much longer,” advises one of Mr. Wang’s stoic factory workers. Luckily for us, he did.

  • None of [the recent docs on China's rapidly mangled topography] possesses the sheer, brute force of Wang’s film, which works an interesting variation on the cinema-of-duration. One can say that nine hours is too long a period of time to spend watching a film, especially one with such a limited entertainment value. At the same time, West of the Tracks is imbued to give a sense of incompleteness; the ultimate impression is one of intimate glimpses in transition.

  • When Wang arrived on the international festival circuit in 2002 with Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks, a nine-hour portrait of three declining state-owned factories in northeast China, his voracious documentation felt like the ideal redress to the scarcity of art cinema grappling with China’s modern-day predicament.

  • Wang Bing uses the camera not only to record history, or rather history-in-the-making, but to _write_ history. West of the Tracks is a cinematic document that, despite its running time, needs to be seen. It is not a beautiful film. You will look for beautiful frames in vain. It’s an ugly film, it is not aesthetically pleasing. But neither is the subject matter. What Wang Bing shows shouldn’t and cannot be made aesthetically pleasing. It’s a simple document that asks to be taken as it is; raw, brutal, ugly.

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