Mountains May Depart

2015

Drama / Romance

111
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 91%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 68%
IMDb Rating 6.9 10 4,808

Synopsis


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June 15, 2020

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Cast

720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
1.14 GB
1280*720
Chinese 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
126 min
P/S N/A / N/A
2.33 GB
1920×1080
Chinese 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
126 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by rubenm 6 / 10 / 10

Two thirds excellent, one third clumsy

Director Zhangke Jia is not afraid to tackle the problems of modern China, and 'Mountains May Depart' is no exception. The film touches upon issues such as growing inequality, poor working conditions and corruption, but the central theme is the price the country is prepared to pay for its obsession with material progress. The film is set in Fenyang, a northern coal mining city and the director's hometown. In 1999, at the eve of the new millennium, eighteen year old Tao (played by the director's wife Tao Zhao) has to choose between two suitors: the honest but ordinary coal miner Liangzi and the flashy bragger Zhang. She sees right through Zhang's bravado, but can't resist the promise of a better life, symbolized by his red Volkswagen, 'perfect for the next century'. Liangzi feels humiliated and leaves town. Fifteen years later, Tao is well-off, but divorced and unhappy. Her seven year old son is living the good life with his father in Shanghai. Liangzi, in the mean time, is terribly ill and returns to Fenyang. Filled with remorse, Tao helps him financially but doesn't seem to be able to relate to him on an emotional basis. Flash-forward another ten years into the future, and Tao's son is living with his father in Australia. He had to leave China, it turns out, because of anti-corruption campaigns. The boy is a spoilt and clueless brat, who refuses to speak Chinese to his father, but finds some emotional warmth with his Chinese teacher. The first two parts of the film are excellent. Tao's moral choices, the contrast between progress and tradition, the power of money - it's all shown in a beautiful heartfelt way. The director anchors the story with recurring images, like a tall pagoda on the banks of the Yellow River, and spices it with small symbolic items like dumplings and keys. An interesting feature is the changing aspect ratio: in the first episode the screen is almost square, and it widens until it is widescreen in the last episode. Another feature is the way dialogues are filmed: repeatedly the director frames only one participant. And a third peculiarity are some high-impact scenes without a clear meaning or function in the story: a crashing military plane, a coal truck losing some of its cargo, a nervous caged tiger. The sad thing about this movie is that the third part is very different from the first two parts, and lacks the quality of it. Not only are we introduced to different protagonists, also in this part the dialogue and acting are clumsy and unnatural, the story lacks focus and the scenes seem pointless. It's as if the director loses his golden touch when the story leaves China. Still, in this last episode, the message is hammered home: the strive for material wealth leads to emotional poverty.

Reviewed by ilpohirvonen 7 / 10 / 10

Departing Borders and the Flux of Change

Jia Zhangke is a prominent figure in contemporary world cinema as one of the leading directors of the so-called sixth generation of Chinese filmmakers. He has become known for his personal films which discuss social transition in modern China through the experience of the individual. Zhangke's latest film "Mountains May Depart" (2015) continues this in an essential, if not exactly surprising, fashion. Like "A Touch of Sin" (2013) and "Still Life" (2006), the film has an episodic structure, but narrative is much more conventional and straight-forward. While there is a lot of change in narrative focalization, "Mountains May Depart" is strongly structured around the protagonist Tao, played by the director's muse Tao Zhao, whose life unfolds before us in three distinct periods: 1999, 2014, and 2025. Thus Zhangke takes a look behind, reflects on the present, and anticipates the future of the Chinese society. As a social film, "Mountains May Depart" studies the individual in the grip of a changing world. It tackles the difficulty of communication to the extent where parents need interpreters to talk to their children. Globalization, capitalism, and the new freedom of the 21st century do not offer comfort or help, but rather appear as rootlessness, alienation, and solitude in the lives of people. All of Zhangke's films are, more or less, about change, but in "Mountains May Depart" this theme manifests itself clearly on the level of style and narrative. Zhangke's narrative includes a modernist combination of perspectives, creating a simple complexity which is never disorienting, as different characters are followed throughout the film, enhancing a pluralist sense of multitude and change. While Zhangke's style has been known as consisting of long takes and complex camera movement, "Mountains May Depart" presents a greater variety in style. Zhangke's camera keeps a short distance to the characters, mainly on the level of the medium shot, but there are also memorable establishing extreme long shots which highlight the minuteness of the individual in a vast landscape. The camera does move a lot, though perhaps subtly, but the editing rhythm is not strikingly slow. One of the most conspicuous stylistic elements of the film is the changing aspect ratio. The first episode is shot in the letterbox 4:3 ratio, the second in the contemporary standard 16:9, and the last in the widescreen format 2.35:1. This constant widening of the aspect ratio of the image reflects not only the globalization of the Chinese society and the characters moving outside of their homeland but also a more primordial experience of change that is constant in human existence. It embraces the Heraclitean flux. Thus Zhangke poeticizes the experience of change in a cinematic fashion; that is to say, he utilizes cinematic means to articulate a profound, existential experience of change. This he does by combining features that change (the aspect ratio, the focalizing perspective) with perpetual elements such as recurring songs ("Go West" by Pet Shop Boys), dramatic motifs (the dog, the keys), and the intimate cinematography. Like the characters, Zhangke's style and narrative seem to be searching for a red line, something that gives meaning and coherence in a world of change. While "Mountains May Depart" might feel like a minor work in Zhange's oeuvre, it does redeem itself for a patient spectator. Like Zhangke's other films, it too looks at the contemporary Chinese society, the inevitable transition from the perspective of the individual, and modern identity in an ever-changing world. Although there certainly is sadness to all this, Zhangke's film is also quite optimistic and bright in comparison to his previous, darker film "A Touch of Sin". Mountains may depart -- the very borders of the image may broaden -- but something will endure. It is, in fact, as if higher levels of discourse were trying to find unity amidst variety: something that remains in the perpetual flux of change.

Reviewed by Sergeant_Tibbs 7 / 10 / 10

Admirable ambition, occasionally misguided.

Mountains May Depart starts on perhaps my favourite opening shot of the year. Kicking it off with the Pet Shop Boys' vibrant song "Go West," we're straight in the middle of a dance routine with a room full of people clumsily bopping in sync. It's infectious and filled with unbridled hope and joy. Unfortunately, it's downhill from here, though the film is never aiming for the same type of exuberance. I'm not familiar with Jia Zhangke or his following – Walter Salles apparently has a hotly anticipated documentary about the director at this festival – but Mountains May Depart seems like an endearing and accessible introduction. Telling three stories in three separate time periods, I do enjoy the way it explores causality in how these small relationships and dramas at one time can feed into a dilemma 25 years later. The first story, set during the turn of the century in 1999 when Chinese capitalism was healthy, follows a love triangle between Tao, an aerobics instructor, Zhang, an egotistic entrepreneur, and Liangzi, a man who works for Zhang. The three hang out as friends but Zhang can't bear the idea of Tao getting close to Liangzi and despite emotional logic, it's social economical pressures that make decisions. Cut to 2014, Tao and her beau have divorced and she's now estranged from her son. Upon the death of her father, her son is forced to visit and she must make the decision of how connected she should be to him throughout his life. Then off to an imagined Australia in 2025, her son doesn't remember her and currently struggles with his relationship with his father where they now have a language barrier. With the help of a teacher he grows attached to, he goes in search for Tao. Each section of the film is approached in a different way, reminiscent of the way last year's The Grand Budapest Hotel and Mommy played with ratios. The first section is a tight 4:3, the second is a full frame, and the third is widescreen. However, these feel like they represent the period and the environment moreso than the character's emotions, with exception to the mid- section, which ideally captures Tao's regret and longing. It's a mixed bag depending on the talent, with some tender moments landing strong and some clumsily misguided, the latter most prominent in the last section. That first section has a bait and switch for the decades long heartache that the seemingly innocent love triangle causes. The theme of how people drift apart no matter how close they are resonates but it's unbearably melancholic without Zhangke offering much of a satisfying a silver lining. It's a shame that despite the film's strengths it has too many loose ends and unnecessary moments that don't appear to add to the character arcs or the themes. With a 25 year story like this where no single character carries us through the whole film, every moment has to count to something. There's little justification as to why the third section is in glorious widescreen and set in Australia, but perhaps this just speaks to how disconnected it is from the rest of the film. While mostly drenched in Chinese culture, I wish Zhangke didn't resort to certain American clichés such as sad montages of characters having deep thoughts set to music. However, with those time gaps, Zhangke does harness a powerful nostalgic through just a few song motifs carried through all three sections that are well executed. Both disarmingly simple and complex, his ambition is admirable, but it doesn't quite reach the potential that this expanse allows it to travel. 7/10 Read more @ The Awards Circuit (http://www.awardscircuit.com/)

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