Moun­tains May De­part

MOUN­TAINS MAY DE­PART, drama, not rated, in Man­darin with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 3.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - NEWS -

Moun­tains May De­part has a panoramic view of life: The film starts in 1999 and flashes for­ward twice — to 2014 and then to 2025. The story be­gins with the rit­ual of courtship; two men in their mid-twen­ties try var­i­ously to woo a friend, Tao (Zhao Tao). Liangzi (Liang Jin Dong) works in a coal mine, whereas Jin­sheng (Zhang Yi) has just bought a coal mine. Tao is a sen­si­tive and care­free young woman who likes to sing dur­ing New Year’s cel­e­bra­tions — the film opens with a lion dance. A lit­tle later, the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of “Go West,” with its prom­ise of be­ing “to­gether,” re­flects not only the ebul­lience of youth, but also China’s prom­ise at the turn of the mil­len­nium. The film was writ­ten and di­rected by Jia Zhangke, who is re­garded as a key fig­ure in Chi­nese cinema’s “Sixth Gen­er­a­tion,” which be­gan as a post-Tianan­men Square un­der­ground film move­ment.

Tao chooses Jin­sheng, the guy with the money, though we sus­pect she might have been hap­pier with Liangzi. Jin­sheng is so much the en­tre­pre­neur and the em­bod­i­ment of ma­te­ri­al­is­tic China that he names their son “Dol­lar.” Heart­bro­ken by Tao’s choice, Liangzi moves to a dif­fer­ent town and finds an­other min­ing job.

The first half of the film gives us fresh im­ages of China, such as a river­side the friends drive to and the coal mine where Liangzi works, from which he de­vel­ops health prob­lems. In the some­what rick­ety last third of the film, which fol­lows Dol­lar’s life with his father in Aus­tralia, there are par­al­lel wa­ter vi­su­als, this time of the ocean, but wa­ter doesn’t have the ground­ing ef­fect it did ear­lier. Now the waves seem to re­in­force how un­moored the char­ac­ters are, how far they are from home.

Zhao Tao, who is mar­ried to di­rec­tor Jia Zhangke, plays Tao el­e­gantly, at age twenty-five, in her early for­ties, and fi­nally in her early fifties. Tao’s char­ac­ter re­tains her sense of dig­nity and hu­mor through­out life’s tra­vails. In a re­cent in­ter­view with The New York Times, Zhangke said that when Tao’s father passes away in the film, he had meant for Tao to ar­range for the fu­neral in a stoic way, to re­flect the “East­ern film aes­thetic.” How­ever, the ac­tress sug­gested that Tao would have a stronger emo­tional out­burst upon los­ing her father, with whom she had an in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship. “It’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent fe­male per­spec­tive on how to deal with some­one’s pass­ing, and dif­fer­ent from how I would deal with it,” Zhangke told the

Times. He de­cided to go with the emo­tional out­burst, which dra­mat­i­cally widens the range of Tao’s per­for­mance. Though the last third of the film fol­lows her son, Tao is the story’s real hero­ine, and fit­tingly, the film ends with her. At this point, the Pet Shop Boys come through again with “Go West,” pro­vid­ing a happy mar­riage of char­ac­ter rev­e­la­tion and tone that closes this highly re­lat­able film. — Priyanka Ku­mar

Driv­ing the point home: Zhang Yi and Zhao Tao

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