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Mahjong: New Independent Chinese Cinema

Saturday, November 22, 2008
6:30 p.m. Bliss
Sheng Zhimin (China, 2006)

(Fu sheng). While many current Chinese films turn to Hong Kong’s populist pyrotechnics for their inspirations, Sheng Zhimin’s Bliss finds its “bliss” in something else entirely: the becalmed rhythms and introspective moments of Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang, and other New Taiwan Cinema directors. Set in the tropical, perpetually mist-ridden city of Chongqing (along the Yangzte River), Bliss leisurely winds its way through one family’s life changes and struggles. Retired policeman Lao Li contends with his second wife’s hoodlum son, while his son Jian-jun and his wife deal with growing woes of their own. A former assistant to Jia Zhangke and Fruit Chan, Sheng Zhimin fills this introspective debut with a rhythm that well suits the film’s fog-bound setting. Gorgeous, lush, and deeply questioning, Bliss recalls Yang’s masterful Yi Yi in its portrait of an intergenerational family seeking answers, but finding only new questions.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Sheng, Gu Zheng. Photographed by Wang Junbo. With Liao Zhong, Wang Lan, Xu Tao, He Qin. (96 mins, In Mandarin with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Golden Network Asia Ltd.)