Movie Review: A New Old Play (2021) by Qiu Jiongjiong

“A New Outdated Play” is the feature-length debut of Chinese language highly-acclaimed artist Qiu Jiongjiong. The film was impressed by the director’s theater household and extra exactly, the lifetime of his grandfather. “The New Outdated Play” was awarded Particular Jury Prize on the 74th Locarno Movie Competition.

A New Outdated Play is Screening on the Museum of the Moving Image

After passing away, a well-known theater clown Qiu Fu (Yi Sicheng) is dropped at the underworld by Ox-head (Liu Boyu) and Horse-face (Huang Lingchao), the 2 guardians of the underworld. There, the actor contemplates his life as a part of a Sichuan theater troupe that has skilled a very powerful moments of latest Chinese language historical past, and meets previous acquaintances such because the theater servant Crooky (the spectacular Gu Tao) earlier than he eats the “Crossing the Bridge Noodles” which can make him neglect the previous.

From its first seconds, Qiu Jiongjiong’s film grabs our consideration with its intricate and stylized theater-like units. The digital camera is oftentimes locations squarely in entrance of the actors, who play the actors they painting in a considerably exaggerated, theater-like, however extremely masterful, trend. The backgrounds behind them are painted on the wall behind them, whereas many issues within the mise-en-scene, reminiscent of automobiles or gun ammunition (of which there are a lot of) are stylized and sometimes manufactured from cardboard. This all may have seemed unhealthy if it was made by a lesser filmmaker and artist, however within the hand of a grasp like Qiu it’s nothing lower than spectacular. Sure, it’s a bit an excessive amount of at instances, with many a body chockfull of motion and knowledge, however the overwhelming feeling of all of it offers the film a singular environment and aesthetic.

Every thing we see onscreen occurs on a stage and we’re absolutely conscious of that. Scratch that, we’re consistently reminded of it, second after second instructed by the director that what we see is actors enjoying on a stage. And that isn’t a nasty factor, fairly the alternative, it really works within the film’s profit. In any case, we’re watching a biography of types of a theater troupe and what higher place there may be for that than a theater set.

The beautiful theater units and theatrical performances of the actors serve one other perform. They level out to the performativity of the on a regular basis and the frequent individuals. The identical people who find themselves nationalists through the Republic change into the communists and communist leaders after Mao and his individuals take over the nation. They don’t consider in any of the ideologies, just one factor – survival. The individuals, identical to the actors within the troupe, are able to carry out no matter function is requested of them solely to achieve the liking of the present regime in energy.

Primarily based on real perception within the consistently altering ideologies or just performances, they’ve actual penalties for your entire nation, together with the troupe whose eyes we expertise China’s fashionable historical past by. And these penalties are equally ridiculous and deeply disturbing. That is most obvious through the second a part of “A New Outdated Play” which offers with the Nice Leap Ahead and the Cultural Revolution. Although named Folks’s Artist and supposedly given extra meals than the traditional inhabitants (within the type of sugar of all issues), Qiu Fu and his household don’t have sufficient to outlive and are pressured to hunt for worms within the feces they’ve scooped from the open bogs close by. They’re caught, nevertheless, by nosy neighbors and criticized for stealing nationwide manure and, by extension, stimulating the famine. The nice actor has to get away from the scenario by enjoying part of play he’s well-known for. Underneath Communism, artwork is as a lot priceless as feces, the director appears to say. Afterward, Qui Fu is denounced as anti-communist by his personal son and compelled to do heavy handbook labor for unknown causes. Not that the particulars of why he’s condemned matter, simply the mere indisputable fact that he and the opposite members of his group are.

The identical logic applies to the theaterset-like world the individuals inhabit. It seems the way in which it does, skewed, crumbling, consistently altering, as a result of it follows the whims of these in energy and the wants for survival of the frequent individuals. Take for instance Sichuan theater which is the house base of our troupe. Although the constructing stays just about unchanged for almost all of the the film’s mammoth runtime, it modifications names not less than 3 times, as a lot because it modifications its viewers. With the altering title, there are additionally slight modifications to the decor. The images or statues which can be nominally worshipped, and different superficial issues, however within the core of it, the actors, by no means are. The earlier generations, a part of which is Qiu Fu, train the youthful ones, passing their, supposedly, reactionary worldviews to them. It’s all professional forma.

Qiu Jiongjiong’s “A New Outdated Play” is an oftentimes tough to endure bodily and emotionally epic, little question about it. And exactly due to that it’s an important view for everybody occupied with Chinese language historical past and cinema, and a film we are going to write about for years to come back.



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