Education About Asia: Online Archives

Still Life (Sanxia haoren)

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Directed by Jia Zhangke
Distributed by New Yorker Films
DVD, 108 minutes, color, 2006

Reviewed by Xurong Kong
and Sue Gronewold

In contrast to the so-called “Fifth Generation” filmmakers who used only 35mm cameras, Jia Zhangke,
perhaps the most prominent of the “Sixth Generation,” prefers to use digital equipment, which seems less professional but also more convenient. This equipment is ideal to carry on Jia’s cinematic mission: to focus on the gritty life of the lower classes in China. Jia feels it regretful that China, with its rich continuous civilization, lacks detailed records on the history of its ordinary people. Still Life aims at reflecting this group’s life and work— in a China undergoing great change. Like many people in modern societies with memories of an older world, or like China with its long history, these ordinary people face an old problem: how to balance traditions of the past with conditions of the present.