By Mónica Delgado
A Yangtze Landscape is a film that can be seen in conversation with Land Vessels (Navíos de Tierra), also presented in Olhar de Cinema, a film that responds to an entire maritime imaginary in diverse films that have flooded the festival scene and independent cinema. From At Sea to Leviathan, to Vikingland to Ruinas tu Reino. Suddenly, the sea has acquired the capacity of being a source of metaphors, symbolisms and synecdoches to talk about a social failure or weariness. And Xu Xin’s cinema is not alien to that.
There are moments in A Yangtze Landscape of a remarkable abstraction, that turns the docks into places of extreme mathematical conjunction, which measures tides and ships that set sail. Here, the black and white is perfect as a method of showing the immensity of the ships, which transport raw materials that are returned to the world as manufacture of diverse constitution. Dwarfed men before a giant monster of the docks. Maybe this kind of monstrous aesthetic (showing enormous pieces of machinery before humans submitted to an exhausting work that leads them to hysteria) could be hardened, but it is even more so when the filmmaker stops in some aspects of social poverty (mean eating from trash cans) to give account of the inequities, a necessary element before an aesthetic proposal that poses a denounce of this world of contradictions from the outsiders that peek in the coasts.
In the other hand, A Yangtze Landscape has a side that distances itself from the characters it registers, who we see in quotidian activities of leisure or specific jobs, but looking dehumanized, something opposite to Wang Bing’s cinema, for example. There’s a kind of “exoticization” of poverty, however, the sequence of the markings of height in meters in the dock overcomes everything else explored in other parts of the film.
The beginning of Land Vessels (Navíos de Tierra) possess a peculiar cinematic beauty, where the sea and waves acquire an abstract tone due to the ocher color of the coast. The land and sea are composed in an atmosphere of unreality, in an unusual landscape that dyes in red the composition of a earthy mineral that serves as a magical prelude (specially because a fantastic photography by Matheus Antunes) to the journey of the protagonist, a worker that leaves an abandoned mine to travel in a ship going to China.
Thisfilm by debutante Simone Cortezão can be associated to works by Mauro Herce and Xurxo Chirro (especially because of the orange suits in high seas and the conversations in dining rooms and sailors cabins, that refer to the spirit of Vikingland), and there is even an intention to build the maritime landscape from the mediation of the ship, something that reminds us of some episodes of the works of Peter Hutton. However, the filmmaker proposes us to stop in a character that is interested in connecting with his workmates and achieve a desire as soon as he touches land. Therefore, the landscape, the sea and its observation are contingent to the vision of this character in transit.
Premiered in the official competition of Olhar de Cinema, Land Vessels is an auspicious debut, despite a some evocations to other recent films that have the environment of docks, fishing and sailors as a metaphor of travel and transformation.
A Yangtze Landscape
Sección Outros Olhares
Dirección: Xu Xin
Production: Zhang Jun, Xu Feixue, Lu Zhixin
China, 2017, 156 min
Sección Competición de largometrajes
Director: Simone Cortezão
Guión: Simone Cortezão
Fotografía: Matheus Antunes
Reparto: Romulo Braga, Shima, George Chein
Productora: Centro O Oito Filmes
Brasil, Taiwán, 2017