'Cry Me a River' - Jai Zhangke
‘Cry Me a River’ is a romantic short film based around the reunion of four university friends and lovers after 10 years. Jia states that this film was inspired by the classic Chinese film ‘Spring in a Small Town’, which is also about the reuniting of lovers. The friends, who were all former campus poets with their own published campus magazine “This Generation”, meet to congratulate the birthday of their professor. Ma and Zhou are a former couple, Zhou is married now, whilst Ma is still single. Zhou expresses her concern for Ma and reveals her still present love. Tang and Bai meanwhile apparently had a close relationship, however Bai had an unhappy marriage because of her husband’s affair. On the other hand, the successful career of Tang’s wife caused dull marital relations.
The film gives the audience a steady and gratifying feeling, it is a story about an endless and physically absent relationship. It also reflects the marriage of social reality. Although people in life will encounter many unpleasant things, there will always be other people or things to balance that sadness. There are no exaggerated plots or techniques used in the film. It brings out the message “life is a canoe, drifting in the river of time”, which can make us comprehend and think about the relationships between people. Scenes are shot in a plain way to describe the story and the shots accompany lyrical interlude and simple dialogue. When all of these things coordinate together, they express affection.
'In Public' - Jai Zhangke
‘In Public’ is a short documentary film about a city called Datong. Many Shanxi people state that Datong is a horrible and disorderedly place, therefore attracting Jia to explore it personally. This is a film without subtitles, an interesting choice made by the director as he thinks the audience do not need to hear what the characters are saying. Their voices are part of the environment and people’s faces and status are more important than what they are saying. It is thus quite an abstract film as it abandons all languages and simply focuses on characters’ appearance.
The film presents different shots of many spaces such as railway stations, a bus stop, waiting rooms, dance halls, billiard halls and a restaurant. There is a rhythm and order throughout these spaces that are all connected in a journey of sorts, this is one of the director’s personal artistic choices.
Another interesting idea is overlap space. For example, there is a bus station waiting room in the documentary. The ticket lobby is a billiard hall and there is a ballroom behind the curtain, they become three locations and assume the functions. Jia argues that he likes picture superimposed in modern art and that spatial overlap demonstrates a deep and complex social reality. This is an esoteric and abstract concept and adding this element can enhance the sense of arts of the documentary.
This documentary makes us recognize Datong more plainly and lets us know that when we exhume something deeply and personally, we can inhabit many stereotypes.