Session sixty-six, Illegal_Cinema


Zhantai (Platform) [Jia Zhangke, 2000, 2h 34min] Screening proposed by Catherine Foulkrod, followed by dialogue.

Languages: Mandarin and Shanxi dialects, with subtitles in Spanish

This is a film I came across while researching uncanny fashion trends in post-Mao China.

Set in the director’s hometown of Fenyang, Shanxi Province, Platform has been called “a tone poem on time, transformation and the trauma lurking at the crossroads of socialism and capitalism.” Spanning the years 1979–1990, it is an ode to the cataclysmic economic and cultural changes China faced after the death of Mao Zedong as the country transitioned to a free market economy and opened its doors to the West. The film explores the era through the members of a theater troupe, but it eschews “drama,” “action” and “events” in favour of subtler cultural cues and what the director calls “the deadlock that exists between humans and time, the camera and its subject.”

The second feature-length film by Jia Zhangke, Platform was originally 210 minutes.

We’ll be watching the shorter 194-minute version, which is the director’s preferred cut. Before and during the screening, I’ll share a bit of historical context and point out/give clues to decoding some of the film’s historical markers—such as bellbottom pants, perms, and Taiwanese pop songs.

Catherine Foulkrod is a writer and editor based in Bilbao.