Miniature China

8 Aug 2013: The World (DVD, 2003, Jia Zhangke)

Reserving judgment – though my impressions were good, and if not purely good, then intrigued – because this film begs to be seen with a means beyond this evening’s limited technologies: a Cinemascope frame not just barred a bit on the top and bottom but substantially on all four sides, and this within the already scandalously scanty you-call-yourself-a-cinephile? 14” laptop screen. This would be passable if Zhangke and his cinematographer favored spaghetti-Western-style (and even Kurosawan) close-ups and even medium and wide shots but this story is almost exclusively told through extremely long shots, characters taking up small territories in vast settings that I just couldn’t see and gape at very well as such. But, intriguing: much jumping between sets seemingly in parallel and in commentary with each other, and a kind of doubling or tripling or quadrupling of nuclear couples in turmoil (it would take another viewing and more attention to keep everyone, and their relationships to the others, straight due to the rapid transitions between them), and effective & emotional use of animation along with an apparent periphery yet of great significance (A sweatshop fabricating knock-off – or perhaps genuine? I can’t tell – purses and apparel with big brand names, the whole Las Vegan/Legolandian setup of a miniature world of landmarks in Beijing). A rare movie that demands a repeat viewing just to know and appreciate more about it.

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