24 City

Director: Jia Zhang-Ke
Year Released: 2008
Rating: 2.0

Ambiguous proto-documentary about the destruction of a factory and its being replaced with luxury apartments - whether it's a lamentation for 'the Past of China' or a tongue-in-cheek technical exercise is left up in the air. The fact that Jia casts actors to play some of the interviewees (Joan Chen is one of them) complicates the film - is he arguing that there is no difference between the memories of real people and the fictionalized accounts recited by actors? Who's to say the speeches by the 'real people' weren't dictated by the filmmaker? The interviewees - whether 'fake' or 'real' - love to talk but their monologues tend to drift into the banal and the picture gets sidetracked, though the HD images of rubble and reconstruction are always crisp and fascinating, which makes me wonder why he didn't just play it straight and tell it like it is (without the artifice). As with his little seen documentary, Dong, Jia is very capable of capturing the quiet poetry of real-life.