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TUESDAY: After the 5th: China and the 21st Century

Programmed by Addison Wood

This series was destined to fail from the beginning; a task as Herculean as surveying the cinema of China in the 21st century is, frankly, insurmountable. With “After the 5th,” I wanted to lean into this inevitability, to find a way of demonstrating the idiosyncrasies of contemporary Chinese filmmaking rather than reaching for a broad-stroke overview.

Each film in my series holds unique ground within the modern landscape of Chinese culture. Films like Black Coal, Thin Ice, Still Life, and Long Day’s Journey Into Night represent the continuity of arthouse practices of the fifth generation filmmakers, whereas Wolf Warrior 2 and House of Flying Daggers demonstrate the viability of mass-marketed commercial filmmaking. While the epic has largely been relegated to superhero franchises and a handful of ultra-popular Netflix-funded directors in the US, China has continued to produce massive works of propaganda and historical epics at an astounding rate. And yet 21st century Chinese film skews our understanding of more “Western” genres such as the indie coming-of-age dramedy (Girls Always Happy) and modern, social documentary (Bitter Money). But Chinese entertainment does not exist in a vacuum; with Up the Yangtze and especially Dead Pigs, we get a glimpse into the way North American and Chinese filmmaking cultures have only just begun to interact with one another.

7:00PM Tuesday, September 27th

Black Coal, Thin Ice still

Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)

Diao Yinan · 110m · Digital

Stomach-turning, erotic, isolating, and comic, all in equal measure. Black Coal, Thin Ice centers Zhang, a drunken former police officer, trapped in a game of cat-and-mouse after attempting to hunt down a serial killer who has dismembered and scattered bodies across Heilongjiang’s industrial landscape. What results is a masterful whodunit that melds neo-noir genre fare with biting social commentary. NOTE: Uncensored, international version.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Tuesday, October 4th

Wolf Warrior 2 still

Wolf Warrior 2 (2017)

Wu Jing · 123m · DCP

Wolf Warrior 2 is the ultimate spectacle of Chinese propaganda filmmaking; yet it remains an enigma in the American cultural zeitgeist, despite standing as the highest-grossing non-English language film of all time for nearly four years, raking in the equivalent of $874 million. It’s the story of heroic Chinese military involvement in an unnamed African nation, but it's also a look at what the Chinese military apparatus sees as its future in geopolitics.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Tuesday, October 11th

City of Life and Death still

City of Life and Death (2009)

Lu Chuan · 133m · 35mm

Both a maximalist war epic and a harrowing look at the effects of genocide and mass violence, City of Life and Death recounts the Nanking Massacre with a stark realism that refuses to pull any punches. Shot in crisp black and white, the film evokes the horrific images of war-torn China seared into the world’s collective consciousness. It is a beautiful tapestry and shocking testament to the unlimited cruelty men are capable of inflicting upon others.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Tuesday, October 18th

Dead Pigs still

Dead Pigs (2018)

Cathy Yan · 130min · DCP

After last week’s screening, we need a little levity. Based on an actual incident involving 16,000 dead pigs, Cathy Yan’s (Succession, Birds of Prey) directorial debut is a kaleidoscopic tale of Shanghai in an era of breakneck development and increasing Western influence. Featuring a mix of Mandarin, English, and Shanghainese, Dead Pigs is a darkly hilarious social satire of humanity’s inability to find peace in an ever-changing world.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00MPM Tuesday, October 25th

Girls Always Happy still

Girls Always Happy (2018)

Yang Mingming · 116min · Digital

Yang Mingming's Girls Always Happy is a revelation in 21st century Chinese cinema. Blending comedy and drama in equal measure and featuring a toxic familial relationship that rivals the chaos of Ladybird and early Xavier Dolan, simultaneous writer/actor/director Yang Mingming's debut is a criminally underrated glimpse at a particularly fucked up Beijing duo of a mid-twenties daughter living with her mother in a cramped house.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Tuesday, November 1st

House of Flying Daggers still

House of Flying Daggers (2004)

Zhang Yimou · 119min · 35mm

Zhang Yimou’s Oscar-nominated follow-up to 2002’s Hero is the spellbinding history of a doomed love-triangle set in the final years of the Tang Dynasty. Steeped in literary romantic tradition, while simultaneously paying homage to the legacy of wuxia filmmaking’s golden age, House of Flying Daggers is a staggeringly gorgeous work of martial arts crafted chaos that only the mind of Zhang Yimou, a true master of the medium, could create.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00MPM Tuesday, November 8th

Still Life still

Still Life (2006)

Jia Zhangke · 111min · 35mm

Jia Zhangke’s first film to take home Venice’s Golden Lion is the diptych narrative of two strangers in search of their respective partners set against the background of the destruction of Yangtze River communities brought on by the Three Gorges Dam. Featuring Jia's cousin Han Sanming playing a fictionalized version of himself working as a coal miner in Shanxi, Still Life toes the line between a documentary and a social-realist drama.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00MPM Saturday, November 11th

Long Day's Journey Into Night still

Long Day's Journey Into Night (2018) — at the Logan Center 201 in 3D!

Bi Gan · 138m · 3D DCP

Despite the English-language title taking its name from the play by Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night is a work wholly its own. A dreamy vision of nocturnal Kaili, Bi Gan’s 2018 feature follows the wayward Luo in search of an elusive former lover. While narratively minimalist, the film’s rich style, which includes a mind-bending unbroken hour-long final shot, is some of the best visual storytelling contemporary Chinese film has to offer.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Tuesday, November 15th

Bitter Money still

Bitter Money (2016)

Wang Bing · 163m · DCP

Pivoting from the legacy of forced labor in Maoist China, Wang Bing’s gaze now shifts toward present-day Huzhou, to the hundreds of thousands of migrants working 12 hours a day in its textile industry. Unflinching in its portrayal of poverty and the inescapable routines of industrialization, Bitter Money refuses to play into pornographic depictions of suffering. Instead, it is an emphathetic lens into the modern conditions of working-class China.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Tuesday, November 29th

Up the Yangtze still

Up the Yangtze (2007)

Yung Chang · 93m · 35mm

A quietly angry depiction of rural China’s shift towards a tourism-based consumer economy, Up the Yangtze serves as a stark reminder of North American complicity in the struggle of everyday Chinese citizens. Centered around a riverboat cruise ship catered towards English-speaking tourists, Yung Chang’s 2007 feature debut maintains a melancholic optimism for the lives of two ordinary people coming to terms with their place in a new China.

Tickets can be bought here.