Jia Zhangke (Hong Kong/China, 2000)
(Zhan tai). China’s tumultuous 1980s are revisited in this hyperrealistic account of one provincial theater troupe’s struggles in a landscape dizzily moving from post–Cultural Revolution isolation to a consumer-age nightmare of bad perms and disco fever. The troupe begins in 1979 as the Fenyang Peasant Culture Group, desultorily performing propaganda songs about Chairman Mao, but ten years (and a century’s worth of economic and social changes) later they’ve morphed into the All-Star Rock ’n’ Breakdance Electronic Band, performing Cantopop and Michael Jackson to dwindling audiences and increasingly corrupt paymasters, whether politicians or police. Well versed in the dusty forgotten towns and no-hope landscapes that his characters travel, Jia covers an entire decade’s—and an entire nation’s—transformation from communism to capitalism through one group trying to make sense of it all, and frequently failing to. Touching and sometimes hilarious, Platform is essential viewing for anyone interested in China’s history, the effects of global capitalism, and—not least—great filmmaking.
• Written by Jia. Photographed by Yu Likwai. With Wang Hongwei, Zhao Tao, Liang Jing-dong. (155 mins, In Mandarin with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Celluloid Dreams)