Directed by QIU Jiongjiong • Drama • With Tao Gu, Yi Sicheng • 2022 • 180 minutes
Jiongjiong Qiu’s visually magnificent new film is a unique hybrid of fiction, historical reminiscence, and experimental theatre. Its overview of China from the 1930s to the 1980s is filtered through Qiu Yu, a Sichuan opera 'clown' based on the director’s own famous grandfather. As Qiu Yu negotiates his entry into Hades with two comic sidekicks, his departing soul reviews his childhood, his performances, family tragedies, and political perils.
This film of unparalleled aesthetic and political courage takes place in modestly spectacular visual settings: Qiu, a famous artist, has handcrafted an exquisite miniature model village, a fantastical river landscape, a golden sun in the shape of a Buddha’s head. These images set the scene for a constantly shifting acting style that embraces absurdism, political melodrama, comic vaudeville, and ritual tableaux. We are offered memory as a re-lived collective experience, insistently comic in its mode, but expansively humane in its vision.
“Daring and imaginative, with affecting intimacy and candid observations.” —Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“Critic’s Pick! A magnificently layered historical epic... breathes new life into a story as old as civilization.” —Austin Considine, The New York Times