Crosscurrent (长江图), dir. Chao Yang (杨超). 2016. 

Chao Yang, who won the camera d’or at Cannes in 2004 with his debut feature, brought art house cinema audience another visually stunning picture, “Crosscurrent”. This time, “Crosscurrent” earned him a silver bear for cinematography at Berlin film festival.

Yellow hues juxtaposed with blue colouring, the movies’ mesmerizing images and poetic nature of the loose storyline might remind the audience of “wong kar wai”. On the other hand, the depiction of rural China being washed away by industrialization and globalization would have remind one of Jia Zhang-Ke’s “Still Life”. “Crosscurrent” is sino art house cinema meet Fifth generation directing style. “Crosscurrent” is rusty mechanical boats slicing across cold blue river versus handwritten poetry on aged papers coloured yellow by the light of oil lamps. Cruising along with a ship’s middle age captain, Yang Chao’s movie explores the captain’s mourning over his recently departed father, his affair with the same woman at different ports, and his musings about life and love on the backdrop of rapidly industrializing and urbanizing China.

Accompanying by rustic landscapes and splashing of water against the boat, the boat’s captain takes on a mystical journey of self-discovery in the year of 1989, on the Yangzte river–which often hailed as the cradle of Chinese civilization. The impressionistic way of storytelling is drenched in metaphors, allegories and poetic musings relate to buddhist teachings, making the meaning of the protagonist’s journey nearly impossible to decipher. Ambitious in conception, the stunning visuals and melodramatic acoustic score in Yang’s latest picture ultimately overwhelmed the nearly non existent plot. However, Yang did manage to create a solid landscape of rural China devoured by the effect of globalization. It is an image the western art house cinema audience are all too familiar with, nevertheless, it brings nostalgia to those who once called this vanished landscape their home.

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