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Passages (Lu Cheng) | Review

Fools Gold

Road movie is a moderate marvel to watch.

Selected for the Cannes Film Festival “Un Certain Regard” section, Yang Chao’s directorial debut shows the poise of a veteran filmmaker with a visual aesthetic that oozes with Yasujiro Ozu and which paces itself like Hou Hsiao Hsien oeuvre. With a narrative that is vacant and an aesthetic that is exquisite, this is the sort of film that is not merely concerned with character but also with the relation between space and time.

Passages commences with a splendid long-take from the p.o.v of the head of a cargo train pulling into its final stop – and then out comes the film’s young, impressionable entrepreneurs – a pair of aimless failing students trekking by foot, boat, bike and train out into China’s countryside searching for a new hope in the form of a rare mushroom and easy riches. Despite finding failure – the driftwood pairing find solace in one another with their oddly designed support system which is fueled with their childlike, sister-brother behavior and guided by the very little intuition that they manage to have – it is as rare as a flower in bloom in the month of December.

While the narrative is unimpressionable and paper-thin, viewers can settle on Chao’s fusion of organically shot beautiful compositions that comes with slowly paced long tracking shots that dedicates the story arc. This two hour examination of the Chinese lost generation is a travelogue where the road metaphorically addresses their future’s outcome. By filming in such a convention, it allows for things to happen or not happen, sometimes without meaning and always with a sense of humor that is only traceable for those who wait for the awkward moments. While not much takes place in beautifully composed Cannes winner, Chao’s directorial debut in Passages has more to say about being part of the lost generation than what a film like (Garden State) can do.

Viewed in Mandarin with French subtitles.

Viewed at the Montreal World Film Festival.

Rating 3.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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