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Still Life

Poster for the movie "Still Life"

Still Life (2006)

Drama - 6 September 2006
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An intimate and character driven piece, STILL LIFE is the story of James Masino, a gifted Filipino painter who finds out he is afflicted with a paralyzing disease known as Guillain Barre Syndrome. Faced with a future where he can no longer paint, James leaves his life in the city and goes on a self-imposed exile to paint one last time, one final masterpiece. Unable to imagine a life without his art, he plans to kill himself once he finishes this painting. But Fate intervenes and derails this grand scheme when James learns that he must share this exile with Emma (Glaiza de Castro), a beautiful and mysterious young girl who at 19 has lived a life much too old for her years. But it is her courageous and unfailing optimism despite what life has dealt her that ultimately inspires James to realize a life beyond his canvass. Her search for meaning propels his journey towards hope and redemption...

Director:  Jia Zhangke

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Storyline

An intimate and character driven piece, STILL LIFE is the story of James Masino, a gifted Filipino painter who finds out he is afflicted with a paralyzing disease known as Guillain Barre Syndrome. Faced with a future where he can no longer paint, James leaves his life in the city and goes on a self-imposed exile to paint one last time, one final masterpiece. Unable to imagine a life without his art, he plans to kill himself once he finishes this painting. But Fate intervenes and derails this grand scheme when James learns that he must share this exile with Emma (Glaiza de Castro), a beautiful and mysterious young girl who at 19 has lived a life much too old for her years. But it is her courageous and unfailing optimism despite what life has dealt her that ultimately inspires James to realize a life beyond his canvass. Her search for meaning propels his journey towards hope and redemption...


Collections: Jia Zhangke

Genres: Drama

Details

Official Website: 
Country:   China
Release Date:  6 September 2006

Box Office

Company Credits

Production Companies:  Coproducción China / Hong-Kong

Technical Specs

Runtime:  Duration unknown

Still Life (三峡好人): A Reflective Journey Through a Changing China

Still Life (三峡好人; Sānxiá Hǎorén), a 2006 Chinese film directed by Jia Zhangke, is an evocative narrative set against the backdrop of the Three Gorges Dam project. This film presents a poignant exploration of human lives amidst massive environmental and societal change.

Background and Production

Filmed in the old village of Fengjie, a town on the Yangtze River affected by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, Still Life portrays the gradual demise of a traditional way of life. The film is a co-production of the Shanghai Film Studio and Xstream Pictures. Shot entirely on high-definition digital video by cinematographer Yu Lik-wai, the film features a cast of Jia Zhangke regulars, including Zhao Tao and Han Sanming.

Plot

Still Life focuses on two individuals searching for their spouses in the rapidly transforming town of Fengjie. The narrative follows Han Sanming, a coal miner, as he returns to Fengjie in search of his wife and daughter whom he hasn’t seen in 16 years. Concurrently, the film tells the story of Shen Hong, a nurse searching for her estranged husband. These parallel stories intertwine with the town’s fate, symbolizing the personal impact of China’s rapid modernization.

Cast

  • Han Sanming as himself, a coal miner seeking his family.
  • Zhao Tao as Shen Hong, searching for her husband.
  • Li Zhubing as Guo Bin, Shen Hong’s husband.
  • Wang Hongwei as Wang Dongming, assisting Shen Hong in her search.
  • Ma Lizhen as Missy Ma, Han Sanming’s wife.
  • Zhou Lin as Brother Mark, a young laborer who befriends Han Sanming.
  • Luo Mingwang as Brother Ma, Missy Ma’s brother.

Reception and Awards

Still Life premiered at the 2006 Venice Film Festival, winning the Golden Lion Award for Best Film. It garnered positive reviews for its portrayal of the human cost of industrialization in modern China, holding a 91% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 81 on Metacritic. Critics praised the film’s reflective pace and its blending of realism with surreal elements.

Soundtrack and Style

The soundtrack by Taiwanese musician Lim Giong blends electronic music with Chinese folk elements. Still Life is noted for its slow pacing, panoramic shots of landscapes and people, and its unique combination of realistic and fantastic elements. The visual style, marked by the use of high-definition imagery, draws attention to both the natural environment and the decaying urban landscape.

Themes and Interpretation

The film explores themes of displacement, the erosion of traditional lifestyles, and the human cost of progress. Critics have drawn parallels between Jia Zhangke’s work and that of Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni in terms of visual style and thematic content.

Still Life stands as a significant cinematic work, not just for its artistic merits but also for its incisive commentary on the transformations occurring within contemporary China. The film’s portrayal of a society in flux captures the complex interplay of personal narratives against the backdrop of monumental environmental and social changes.