SHORT REVIEWS (33): DA XIANG XI ER ZUO
A film on helplessness and on the evidences of the world’s futility is not necessarily something that has to be suffered although it last almost four hours, as this one does. Hu Bo’s first feature brings together four characters bound together by tragic and yet plausible circumstances—a suicide, an accident, a robbery, and some other less dramatic issues. Some of them want to go to Manzhouli, a city in northern China, to verify the existence of a mythical elephant who is indifferent to everything. The fact that a young 29-year-old film director committed suicide before finishing the film is congruent with the vision he had on all things, a clarity of vision shaded by the affection he shows towards his characters and the choices he makes in terms of staging the moments of violence (shown always out of screen). The prolonged time of the tale is harmoniously spread among the sequence shots he uses to register and narrate, thus revealing a laborious and precise kinetic criterion in space. Here, Hu Bo has achieved a film which owes a lot to Jia Zhang-ke’s Xiao Wu and Wang Xiaoshuai’s Beijing Bicycle. Perhaps, he would have been a promising heir to the Sixth Generation and his unexpected depart spoiled a possible reinvention of this tradition.
An Elephant Sitting Still / Da xiang xi di er zuo, China, 2018
Written and directed by Hu Bo.
Roger Koza / Copyleft 2020