Friday, September 12, 2008

Post-punk, mainland style. Jia Zhangke retro at PFA.

by Ryland Walker Knight

Unknown Pleasures
Still Life
now submerged

Unknown Pleasures: The Films of Jia Zhangke begins tonight at PFA with a screening of Still Life at 6:30 followed by Dong, with the short Our Ten Years, at 8:45. I'm new to Jia, but I love me some Joy Division (see sidebar), so the first things that popped to mind when I first heard of this Chinese auteur are those Manchester post-punks, which makes the series' title that much cooler. Spread over a month of screenings, the PFA will exhibit all Jia's features from Xiao Wu (Sept 18) through Useless (Sept 26). Plenty has already been written about Jia across the interwebs but, to drum up tonight a little more, here's a list of Still Life reviews, collected by Michael Guillen. As is my practice, I've not read much but cursory notes about why Jia is important (I've got my cocktail party knowledge), so this will be another learning experience. What I do know, and what intrigues me, is his interest in documentary fiction (I feel there should be a slash or an n-dash in between those terms, like, always) and digital (a recent turn in his work), both pet obsessions of mine ever since Pedro Costa rocked my world earlier this year. That, and I'm excited all my missed opportunities with Still Life's recent run will be absolved, and I hear he's into performance as well. I'll have to wait until October to see Unknown Pleasures (3rd) and The World (8th) and Platform (15th) on that big screen but I trust tonight's double bill will get me jazzed and primed. And, failing a trip to the art house, all three are available on Netflix. His Beijing Film Academy thesis film, Xiao Shan Going Home is not readily available for home viewing (for most viewing), and its Bay Area premiere will be accompanied by the short In Public on September 19th.

For more, read Hoberman (and again), Andrew Chan, Michael Koresky, Zach Campbell, Kevin Lee, Girish and pore over Harry Tuttle's links at Unspoken Cinema. I'll try to add to this conversation as the month progresses. [Pix stolen from all over.]

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