Thursday, July 10, 2014

Direct Cinema

Alone (2013) - Wang
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No wonder Wang Bing is regarded as the best documentarian in the world and perhaps the most important Chinese director working today. Alone, a shorter version of his 2 1/2 hr film Three Sisters, hits all the right notes on what I love about observational documentary and Wang's is as real and direct as it gets. Alone shows three sisters, age 10, 6 and 4, living in a remote highland in Yunan Province. They live like orphans. Their mother long gone, father works in another city and seldom visits them. They mooch off of their aunt and work, especially the oldest, Yin- tending various farm herds, vegetable gardens, building fire, cooking and dish washing, laundry. She also takes care of rambunctious younger siblings all by herself.

Father comes in, bringing new shoes and clothes and takes two young ones with him to the city. Yin stays with her grandfather, attends Elementary school. All this time, she never complains. There are shots of her alone, being the oldest, lonely 10 year old in the world. Then there are glimpses of her that shows that she still is a child, like when she plays with a clear plastic sheet as a toy. Their abject poverty is not the main draw here. Rather, it's their innocence and resilience. So much beauty in display in Alone. There is beauty in the girl's faces, in hearth, in the mountains, in Yin's loneliness, in steam rising from the rice bowl, in tattered rain boots, in Yin's cursing, in every frame of Alone.

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