03/18/15 9:00am
03/18/2015 9:00 AM |

A scene from Marco Bellocchio's CHINA IS NEAR (1967). Courtesy S

China Is Near (1967)
Directed by Marco Bellocchio
Two working-class secretaries, Giovanna (Daniela Surina) and Carlo (Paolo Graziosi), enact a plan to climb up the social ladder with the unwitting help of inexperienced professor-turned-Socialist council candidate Vittorio (Glauco Mauri) and his sexually promiscuous sister Elena (Elda Tattoli, also co-writer). But in the world of China is Near, no one—not even Vittorio’s passionate young Maoist altar-boy brother, Camillo (Pierluigi Apra)—is spared Bellocchio’s satirical blade. Those who only know Bellocchio from the more-humanist bent of recent efforts like Vincere and Dormant Beauty may be startled by the serrated edge of the comedy in this, his follow-up to his even-more-incendiary 1965 debut Fists in the Pocket. Even in 1967, though, Bellocchio allows moments of nuance and empathy to shine through: Giovanna’s heartbreak upon realizing she’s as much of a pawn in Carlo’s machinations as everyone else; Vittorio’s desperate attempts to intellectually justify his selling out to a disappointed Camillo. Though the details of its political concerns place this squarely in the late 60s, Bellocchio’s wounding view of human beings hiding behind politics to justify appalling behavior still resonates. Kenji Fujishima (Mar 20-26 at Film Forum; showtimes daily)

03/04/15 8:21am
03/04/2015 8:21 AM |

     return to burma

Return to Burma (2011)
Directed by Midi Z
A restless young man (played by Wang Shin-Hong) bears a dead co-worker’s ashes from Taiwan back to their birth country—known officially today as Myanmar—then tries to create work opportunities for himself and others there. “My motivation for making this film was very simple,” says Midi Z (with translation by La Frances Hui) of his neorealist debut feature, which will screen with his 2014 short The Palace on the Sea. “I wanted to explore the human condition resulting from ten years of drastic change in Burma, with the country’s first general election in two decades present as a backdrop. At the time, I felt like the film’s protagonist, wanting to return home to work but not knowing how to begin. The people he meets are my friends and family members doing things that they do in their everyday lives. My personal experiences lie behind all my films—the differences are in techniques and contexts. Return to Burma is a personal essay; its follow-up feature, Poor Folk (2012), is like an untamed horse, free and wild; the feature after that, Ice Poison (2014), is a painstaking fable. Throughout them I try to express common global conditions of helplessness, displacement, and separation.” Aaron Cutler (Mar 7, 5pm at the Asia Society’s “Homecoming Myanmar: A Midi Z Retrospective”)