An Elephant Sitting Still (Hu Bo, 2018)

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What A Disgrace
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Re: An Elephant Sitting Still (Hu Bo, 2018)

#51 Post by What A Disgrace » Sat Oct 26, 2019 1:16 am

I literally changed my Christmas wish list and plans for vacation this year over that bit of wonderful news. Easily my most anticipated movie, and I get to see it before the decade ends!

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Mr Sheldrake
Joined: Thu Jun 07, 2007 9:09 pm
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Re: An Elephant Sitting Still (Hu Bo, 2018)

#52 Post by Mr Sheldrake » Sat Nov 09, 2019 9:35 am

This arrived on Kanopy earlier in the week. I watched it in four segments as my endurance for slow moving contemplation of the bleakness of life is not what it should be. Also the dialogue and melodramatic situations seemed banal.

I gradually began to admire the rigor of Bo's approach, the foggy look of it, the urgency to get out everything he felt, the unique rhythm, the dominance of the faces. The actors are mostly called on to stare off into space with a dispirited yet thoughtful expression. They are astonishing.

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BenoitRouilly
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2018 5:49 pm

Re: An Elephant Sitting Still (Hu Bo, 2018)

#53 Post by BenoitRouilly » Mon Nov 18, 2019 3:14 pm

Watch it now on The Criterion Channel!

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aox
Joined: Fri Jun 20, 2008 12:02 pm
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Re: The Films of 2019

#54 Post by aox » Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:39 pm

hearthesilence wrote:
Mon Mar 18, 2019 12:17 am
I didn't really notice An Elephant Sitting Still until a month ago, and the first thing mentioned in the press is the death of the filmmaker, who committed suicide at age 29, shortly after the movie was completed and long before it premiered. It will remain his only feature film, and I wasn't sure how the circumstances surrounding the film might shape the experience of seeing it, especially given the advance hype and acclaim.

I liked it quite a bit, but it was difficult to sit through. It's a four-hour film with no intermission, but the length didn't make it difficult - it was the unrelenting pessimism. It establishes the world as an awful and hostile place, and by the time we get to the climax, I don't think there was any way the film could convincingly deny that after everything we've seen, even if one doesn't agree with its bleak viewpoint. It's no surprise that the adults are often narcissists - all relationships feel like an open channel to abuse. To the film's credit, all of this rang true, but I wasn't sure if it was going to amount to anything especially profound or edifying. (At one point, one of the characters flat out tells another that life is just plain awful and that's never going to change, a sentiment that's repeated elsewhere by other people.)

But it does amount to something, and when we get there we see that the whole film's been building towards it. I came away from the moment in question feeling that the characters learn to accept their role in everything terrible around them, even if much of it is beyond their control. In doing so, they realize the things they can do despite the limits of their actions and how much (or how little) it can actually change what's so awful about their lives. It says something that soon after this happens, another character comes in and more or less carries out this lesson in the worst and most misguided way possible.

It's quite an achievement, and if it's not truly a great film, it certain shows great promise that to our misfortune will remain unfulfilled.
Very nice take.

I didn't find this to be a difficult film, and while the four hours didn't zoom by, the length didn't bother me. I hate breaking films up into multiple sittings, and I wasn't sure I would ever get to this since my patience for anything over 2.5-3 hours grows thinner with each passing year (I'm glad I got all of the heavy hitters in the canon done in my 20s) and life is busy. But thanks to Covid19 and the Criterion Channel, I was able to finally see this. I don't have much to add to what is contained in this thread, but like its pessimistic outlook and parade of slow and almost banal scenes, the cinematography is quite drab. Not something I associate with long form. But what stuck out to me was how Hu composed the film. Medium to tight shots, lots of Dutch angles and handhelds, with huge depth of field on the scene's character's face rarely cutting to anyone else even if the other is dealing out most of the dialogue. This really shouldn't work, but it does allow the film to stay focused (pun) on each of the four characters.

I've only been to China twice (Chengdu and Beijing), so I don't know the on-the-ground culture all that well, and especially not the regional differences; however, I think some things were lost to me. Especially the day-to-day lives of our protagonists. For example, the justice system. I know that China has a 99% conviction rate (US has a 93%). What does threatening to call the police mean in Chinese society. What can one expect on the ground with a police officer or in the courts for getting caught with a gun (despite having one of the strictest gun control societies, China still has 40 million guns in private hands), killing a dog, stealing a cell phone, or assaulting two people with a bat? Compared to the US, do many teachers sleep with their students and what are the consequences? Also, selling a fake ticket in China? I wouldn't do that.

I just wish I understood the weight on the shoulders of our characters. I apologize for the aside, but this film was slow enough (not a complaint) to contemplate pretty much anything.

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