Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2018 7:50 pm 
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XIN YUKUN: WRATH OF SILENCE/BAO LIE WU SHEN (2017) - NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL

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JIANG WU IN WRATH OF SILENCE WITH "A SQUIFFY HAIRDO" (ELLEY) - A MARCEL WAVE, A RURAL LUXE LIKE FOREIGN CIGS?

Mute revenge in the wilds

Derek Elley of Sino-Cinema as usual provides informed and linguistically savvy comments on this film, summarizing its elaborate plot, then evaluating the execution, comparing it favorably with careful assessment of the 33-year-old Chinese filmmaker's previous efforts. Clarence Tsui makes further claims for this new film in his Hollywood Reporter review.

The lead character is a mute miner, Zhang Baomin (Song Yang), who returns to the dusty Inner Mongolian hills to find his 12-year-old sheep-herding son missing and foul play, not for the first time, going on among the mining companies on the part of the local tycoon, Chang Wannian (wuxia movie vet Jiang Wu). Chang is "villainous," with all that implies of the slightly over-the-top. In between is Xu Wenjie (Yuan Wenkang), a cleancut looking but morally tainted lawyer under investigation for activities with Chang.

Reviewers consider this to be a film that plays impressively with elements of Western and noir genre. Elley comments that Xin's 2014 debut had "unnecessarily arty" elements, but this movie "falls somewhere between commercial and arthouse cinema in consistently interesting ways."

Whether the balance feels right depends on the viewer's commitment to the action, which for me wavered at first. It seemed the opening scene's exploitation of the photogenic quality of sheep; a suddenly missing small boy; a vengeful, angry mute man; and a sleazy local boss stuffing his face with greasy chunks of meat were laying on the cinematic gestures rather thick for just the first fifteen minutes. But isn't one of my favorite modern movies, Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, pretty much an oddball, arty Western through and through? There's no doubt that Xin Yukun wields his version of a cowboy revenge movie with skills equal to ambition,helped by a Korean martial arts director for fight sequences and a cadre of accomplished and known professional actors in key roles.

It's nothing like Dead Man, of course. It does not subvert genre in such an original way and is more just an actioner. Despite occasional artful juxtapositions by the editor, Hu Shuzhen, the arty feel fades by midway when the film settles into a lot of chasing around, with two missing children and Baomin taking on crowds of bad guys singlehanded. It's modern western, basically, with an Asian martial arts vibe, in which people just have flip phone rather than smart phones. Actress Tan Zhuo, by the way, stays at home, underused, as Baomin's wife, Xia Cui.

Wrath of Silence / 暴裂无声 (Bao lie wu shen) 119 mins., debuted Jul. 2017 at First International Film Festival Xining, then showing for an international 2017 premiere at London, continuing at Taipei, Singapore, Macao. It was screened for this review as part of the 2018 New York Asian Film Festival, showing 9 July 2018 at 6:30 p.m. New York Premiere · Q&A with director Xin Yukun and actor Jiang Wu, who will receive the Star Asia Award.

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