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With: Hong-wei, Liang Jing-dong, Zhao Tao, Yang Tiang-yi
Written by: Jia Zhang-ke
Directed by: Jia Zhang-ke
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Mandarin with English subtitles
Running Time: 150
Date: 09/04/2000

Platform (2000)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Something to Sing About

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jia Zhang-ke's second feature is an epic masterpiece that tells a specifically Chinese story, and yet it does so in a completely universal way. Set between 1980 and 1990, when China moved from the final vestiges of life under Chairman Mao to the Cultural Revolution and Westernized consumer capitalism, Platform is similar in a way to Tian Zhuangzhuang's The Blue Kite. But Platform tells its story through the lives of four young people, all performers in a kind of singing and dancing pop group (called -- get this -- the "All Star Rock and Breakdance Electronic Band").

They begin performing pro-Mao propaganda songs and change with the times, adopting a pop image to go with their new freedom. Where Platform really succeeds in the way it crams ten years worth of material into a single film. Most filmmakers, when faced with a similar task, focus only on epiphanies and highlights and forget the daily routines that make characters come to life. Jia does exactly the opposite, and though we pass through ten years, we do so with the same daily grace as if we'd actually lived them ourselves. As with his other films UnknownPleasures and The World, Jia shoots in patient, unbroken takes and carefully sprinkles offscreen sounds to enhance the story.

Adding Platform to a slew of essential new releases, New Yorker presents their new DVD complete with extensive liner notes, an onscreen interview with Jia, some behind-the-scenes footage and trailers. The DVD also helps explain the origin of Jia's original three-hour cut, which was edited down to this 150-minute version for theatrical release. Jia apparently prefers this version, and the longer version is only a myth at this point.

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