Tuesday 14 December 2010


As the snow fell and settled and froze on London recently, I started watching Wang Bing's impressive nine-hour documentary film, shot a decade ago, much of it in snowy winters, in the decaying, emptying factories and surrounding communities of Tie Xi, the heavy industrial area of the city of Shandong which lies West of the Tracks. The long, long shots along the freight rail lines between the shells of factory hangars, unmaintained and fast becoming derelict, chilled my soul, already somewhat chilled. The stark, harsh beauty and humanity of the project were engaging and very moving.

What a work! Nine hours of slow, sophisticated, often silent cinema. A gentle, epic view of the end of an era, with few pretensions and multiple aesthetic, narrative and political meanings. This was a pinnacle in my small explorations of contemporary Chinese film and literature begun since that big part of the world became real with my brief working trip to Shanghai last year. Of course, I could spend the rest of my life and not get to know even the fraction that's translated.


Beth said...

Ah. We saw one three-hour segment of this epic documentary and were so sorry not to be able to see the rest of it. Certain scenes have stayed with me vividly. Please write more about it and your impressions, Jean.

Anonymous said...

I'd also like to hear more. I'm going to see if I can get a hold of it here.

Jean said...

I would love to write more about these films, but it's kind of daunting, there's so MUCH to say. I'll think about them some more and see what comes to me.

The version that my Chinese friend lent me had only French subtitles. But there is a Swiss company selling dvds with English subtitles: https://www.trigon-film.org/en/shop/DVD/Tie_Xi_Qu%3A_West_of_the_Tracks
Their website doesn't say if they are for Region 2 (Europe) only. If so, you would need to have a multi-region dvd player.