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A coal miner's search for his long-lost wife and child and a nurse's pursuit of her runaway husband intertwine in a slowly submerging village on the Yangtze River, in this elegiac modern masterpiece by Jia Zhangke.
Winner of the Golden Lion at the 2006 Venice
Film Festival, this elegiac masterpiece is the
third part of Jia’s "hometown trilogy" set in
Fenyang (following Xiao Wu and Platform) and
a companion piece to his documentary Dong.
Still Life tells the stories of two people as they
converge upon the ongoing construction of
the massive Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze
River in western China. Jia regular Han Sanming
plays himself as a coal miner in search of his
long-lost spouse and child, while Jia’s muse
Zhao Tao plays a nurse in search of her runaway
husband. The film’s intertwining narratives
unfold in a series of pensive episodes as the
two-thousand-year-old village reverberates to
the sound of crashing hammers while flooding
ever deeper under water; the locals’ terming of
their disappearing village as an "underworld"
pointedly recalls the portentous themes of
J.G. Ballard. Magnificently shot by master
cinematographer Yu Lik-wai, its elegiac tone
punctuated by moments of levity and even a
dash of magic realism, Still Life devastatingly
depicts a landscape and the way of life it
supported (so sanctified by the Fifth Generation
filmmakers) disappearing in the destructive
wake of a rapacious modernity.