News from the Locarno Festival

Chi - Hundred flowers, a Nightmare

Chi - Hundred flowers, a Nightmare



Qiu Jiongjiong is a brilliant new Méliès. In a studio made up of interchangeable rooms and levels, under the influence of a sharp, dense black and white, cloths and curtains are raised, illusions are generated, extras and sets within other sets run past on various levels, in turn intersected by acrobatic movements of the camera. A sophisticated system of Chinese boxes that cinematographically draws a common thread from Pan Wenzhan and Fu Jie to Chen Kaige and to Wang Bing. A flood of red districts that tell the story of China through the life of Zhang Xianchi who, in 1957, at the age of 23, accused of reactionary tendencies as part of the “Hundred Flowers” campaign (soon changed to the “Anti-Rightist” corrective campaign), began a nightmare of over two decades of forced labour, ending in his rehabilitation in 1980.

Chi (Mr. Zhang Believes) demonstrates the difficult balance between rule of the people and freedom of speech, replicating its most obsessive and paranoid aspects with an inflammatory time machine that continuously opens up new perspectives and further paradoxes. Like the final statement, both combative and desperate, with which Zhang Xianchi sums up a whole era: “They were wrong at the beginning when they called me a reactionary when I wasn’t, and they were wrong to rehabilitate me when by then I completely was.”

Lorenzo Esposito
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