From the February 3, 2006 Chicago Reader.– J.R.
Chinese master Jia Zhang-ke (The World) made this 2006 documentary in conjunction with his superb drama Still Life, and one should make every effort to see them together. Dong shows artist and former actor Liu Xiaodong posing and painting male demolition workers in Three Gorges along the Yangtze River, where the world’s largest dam is being built (and where Still Life is set), then doing the same with female models in Bangkok, which allows Jia to draw some pointed social and economic contrasts. The film is less impressive than Jia’s first documentary, In Public (2002), made as he scouted locations for his drama Uncommon Pleasures, but it’s more interesting than his third, Useless (2007), about the manufacture of clothing. The title means east in Mandarin and also refers to the character Liu plays in the 1994 film The Days. In Mandarin, Sezhuan, and Thai with subtitles. 70 min. (JR)