New York Film Festival Review: ‘Mountains May Depart’ when you Go West

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Mountains May Depart competed for the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and takes a prime spot at the New York Film Festival. Jia Zhangke‘s eighth feature film left me bewildered and baffled.

The story takes place in three different timelines: the past (1999), the present (2014) and the future (2029). It mainly focuses on Tao, a young women who is being pursued by two men, one a successful business owner, the other a mine worker. I had a hard time understanding the theme, but after listening to the Q&A with the director, I have much more insight.

Zhangke tells of how footage of disco dancing first influenced the story. He shot lots of the story in 1999 so it’s a different aspect ratio than the later footage. He describes how he wanted to show how technology changes the way people act. (I want to see the movie he’s talking about.) The technology did seem to be a focus, but not nearly enough for me to get that much of a theme out of it. He also describes how it’s also nostalgic about taking time to appreciate loved ones.

I was most mystified by why Tao had to wear the same sweater so much. May she liked it? Maybe the scenes were shot together, but then he cut them so they appeared later and didn’t want to reshoot?

The acting was stoic and forced through the first half, but did get better near the end. It almost had a Place Beyond the Pines sort of vibe due to the father/son relationship, but again, not enough of it to really be considered a theme. There was also a really strange angle about guns in the third act that perhaps needs explanation to American audiences.

I was intrigued by the cinematography, as several times, the camera would focus only one person, even though the scene was clearly with two or three people. It also had a lot of long shots that moved from character to character. That was the most interesting for me.

A great conversation movie, as you can pore over so many of it’s unanswered questions.

About Melissa Hanson

Melissa Hanson aka Dial M For Melissa - Managing Editor / Podcast Producer - Growing up, Melissa’s favorite destination was always the video store and would agonize over whether to watch something new or to rewatch a favorite. Things have not changed. Follow on Twitter @DialMForMelissa

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